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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Heartwarming story could carry France to Eurovision glory

Gamble on Cyprus gathering pace

1 of 1

BBC1 & RTE 1, 8pm Saturday

Top tip
France 12-1

Cyprus have been backed from 100-1 no-hopers to hot favourites in the last week with the gamble gathering pace after a sensational semi-final performance.

Australia, Czech Republic and Bulgaria have gone the other way from single-figure prices to any price you like. But the other big betting story has been the rise to prominence of Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy. Matched at the maximum 1,000 on Betfair, the pride of north Dublin is now being spoken of as a possible overall victor.

The market is largely dominated by Cyprus and long-time ante-post favourites Israel. Cyprus bring with a blockbusting stage show featuring a mermaid catsuit, incredible backing dancers, and a pyro-filled climax that restores faith in the traditions of the world’s premier television show.

However, they are now an outrageously short price. Eleni’s vocals have always been slightly questionable, and she may not finish in the top three during the jury vote (the contest is decided 50-50 on a jury vote and a televote).

That’s enough reason to take them on. Second favourites Israel gave such a poor performance in Tuesday’s semi-final from a staging and vocal perspective that they can be overlooked.

There must also be a question mark about Israel attracting enough non-partisan support for political reasons.

France come to the competition with a contemporary, upbeat, catchy electro-pop number that has a magnificent visual hook at the song’s crescendo.

Any staging worries were assuaged on Thursday when they appeared in front of the arena audience for the first time and gave a vocally admirable performance, coupled with some gorgeous camera shots working between the charismatic Emilie and the adoring Eurovision audience.

There is an added bonus of the song’s heartwarming story – it’s a tale of a migrant baby born on a boat crossing the Mediterranean.

The draw should not be a major worry for France. The fact that the song was placed in berth 13 having been drawn in the bottom half of the final suggests the show’s producers feel it can contend for victory. The last five winners were drawn 18-11-10-21-11 so a middle position is not the disadvantage it once seemed.

Arguably not having appeared in a semi-final is a drawback as the song is less well known but we are getting a bigger price as a result.

Best alternatives
Bulgaria top-four finish 12-1
Moldova 66-1
The last four contests have seen acts hit the frame at morning odds of 100-1, 50-1, 66-1 and 150-1, so it is worth attempting to find an outsider.

Bulgaria were an early favourite for the contest with a terrific contemporary “studio sound” song. However five different performers resulted in a lack of cohesion during rehearsals.

But in the second half of their semi-final performance the penny seemed to be dropping and if they can improve on the opening minute they can outperform their odds from a decent draw in stall 19. Rather than back them each way and waste the win portion of the stake, back them for a top-four finish.

Moldova arrive with a moderate pop song but a terrific stage show with wonderful comedic timing. Their act could go well with tele-voters. Having finished third last year with a 100-1 shot that had a similar gag-fuelled performance, Moldova are worth a small each-interest at 66-1 with Sky Bet, who are paying five places.

The betting movements suggest Sweden defeated Norway and Denmark in Thursday’s semi-final, so they look a big price to be the top Scandinavians.

The Swedes are masters of staging and they have a cultured, contemporary pop act that is sure to perform well. They are drawn well in stall 20 while main rivals Norway are in slot seven.

The last-place market can give an interest right to the end of the voting. The United Kingdom are the rightful favourites for the wooden spoon with their unfashionable, poorly staged effort.

However their blushes may be spared by a Slovenian entry which features a bizarre interlude where the act pretends the music has failed. Audiences see through a gimmick like that and from slot three they could hit the bottom of the barrel.

The gamble on Ireland has been incredible but the price on them finishing outside the top five is now too big to ignore. Falsetto vocals have a terrible reputation with juries and Ryan isn’t a standout performer so Ireland will have to slam the televote to compete for top five.

With Cyprus and Israel solid televote rivals, the Irish bandwagon might run out of steam.


3pts each-way 12-1 general
Bulgaria top-four finish
1pt 12-1 Betway, Betfred
0.5pt each-way 66-1 Sky Bet
Sweden top Scandinavian
2pts Evs general
Slovenia to finish last
1pt 6-1 bet365, Betfred
Ireland to finish sixth or worse
2pts Evs bet365

Already advised
Azerbaijan not to qualify

2pts 10-11 May 8
Cyprus to win semi-final one*
1pt each-way 5-1 May 8
Latvia to finish in top ten in final
0.5pt 20-1 May 10
Sweden to win semi-final two*
1pt 5-2 May 10
*semi-final results will be announced after the final

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United Kingdom are the rightful favourites for the wooden spoon with their unfashionable, poorly staged effort
E.W. Terms
Sky bet