Eurovision 2023 contenders: Patrick Flynn pinpoints the best value bets

Patrick Flynn

17 March 2023

At long last, we now have all 37 entries for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Here is a run-through of the top eight entries in the market and my current thoughts.

Sweden (current price: 1.92)

Sweden is understandably the favourite this year, but I have concerns about this entry and also don’t see much point in backing an odds-on shot this far out from the contest.

My first concern is the song (‘Tattoo’), which I’ve spoken of ad nauseam on Twitter and in my podcast. In studio form, this would be a weak victor. I don’t get the instant winner feeling that ‘Euphoria’ or ‘Arcade’ gave me (or even ‘Heroes’ when factoring in the performance), and I would want that feeling and more to back a song at such a short price. It must be said though, you don’t necessarily need the next ‘Euphoria’ to win in a weak year.

I also worry about the staging. Loreen is sandwiched between two very heavy LED screens for the entirety of the performance, the higher of which would need to be rigged to the ceiling in Liverpool. Because of its weight, there have been multiple media reports that the BBC will not be able to accommodate it given that they also have to cater to the demands of 25 other songs in the final and rig other equipment for what is a near four-hour television broadcast. 

This probably won’t be a major issue and the staging will end up being adapted, but it is worth pointing out that the last few Swedish entries have all ended up looking worse on the actual Eurovision stage than they did in Melodifestivalen. Staging is such an enormous part of this package, so this is a story worth keeping an eye on.

With all that said, Sweden is still in a tier of its own in terms of win chances. It’s the most obvious candidate right now in terms of cross-appeal on both televote and jury sides (though I think its jury score will end up being a fair bit higher – even ‘Heroes’ only managed third place in the televote). Loreen is an understandable favourite so I wouldn’t bet against her without having alternatives in the wings.

I commented after Loreen’s Melfest performance that she would be ‘the one to beat, but it’s beatable’, and I think that pretty much sums up where I’m at right now.

Finland (6.4)

Putting my cards on the table, this is personally my favourite entry this year. I would love to see ‘Cha Cha Cha’ win, but I have to park those feelings to one side. The major concern here is the song’s jury appeal.

Its aggressiveness, the rapping and playful parts of the live presentation do not point to a song that is going to end up at the top of the jury table. It’s hard to say for sure as there hasn’t really been a song like this at Eurovision before (which is part of its appeal for me), but perhaps the closest points of reference are Ukraine in 2021 (ninth) and Iceland in 2019 (16th).

If I had to back a televote winner right now, Finland would be the choice. There’s potential for Käärijä to storm clear with 300+ points, but the juries would still hold the power to prevent Finland from winning. I hope to be proved wrong when the reasonably-predictive Euro Jury results start coming out next month, but right now I’m looking more at top five finish for Finland rather than win.

Ukraine (8)

Despite sitting at their longest ever price in the market for this year’s competition, it would be foolish to write Ukraine off.

My aim is to have my Ukraine position at net zero, because there is simply no way of predicting the level of their televote support again this year due to the ongoing geopolitical situation. I prefer this entry to ‘Stefania’, but that song is uncomparable as Ukraine’s victory last year was not driven by the strength of their entry.

Ukraine’s televote score will in all likelihood go down, perhaps significantly, this year. Purely from the perspective of human psychology, it’s hard to imagine a mass outpouring of support two years in a row — for lightning to strike twice. However, bear this in mind: Ukraine’s televote margin was so big in 2022 that you could have shaved off a third of their points by moving them down two places with each country (turning 12s to 8s, 10s to 7s etc.) and they still would have won the contest.

Last year there was no precedent for Ukraine’s performance, and this year is the same – we can’t even assess 2023 with 2022 as a reference point because Ukraine’s previous victory will surely factor into people’s decisions on whether to support them this time around. I suspect if there was a ‘without Ukraine’ market across various platforms, most Eurovision traders would be betting there instead.

From my own perspective, you shouldn’t take the risk in betting against Ukraine. I made that mistake last year and I don’t intend to make it again. Unless some information comes out that moves me in one way or another, I’ll be keeping my Ukraine position as a net zero where I can.

Norway (24)

Norway is much too short in the market for my liking, and it’s difficult to see three Nordic countries finishing inside the top five given the overlap of where their points will be concentrated geographically. 

I believe that Norway is the weakest of the three (Sweden and Finland, both discussed above, are the other two nations) - ‘Queen of Kings’ will end up below Finland in the televote and below Sweden with the jury, so there’s no unique selling point for traders.

Spain (40)

This is one of the countries that I’ve backed in the last week in the aim to find value. I have no doubts that Spain’s entry will be highly divisive with general audiences as most viewers fall on either side of the ‘screamfest vs. work of art’ divide. But I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: you cannot vote against an entry at Eurovision. Those who love it can vote for it and those that hate it can’t do anything except vote for someone else. The jury dynamic has become similar in recent years, with scores weighted to reward more divisive songs rather than ones that end up mid-table with all jurors.

Though nowhere near as accessible, ‘EAEA’ has the ‘Voilà’ dynamic, one of being carried on a three-minute journey by a performer in complete control of her voice and her stage, one where you notice your heart racing when you come crashing back down to the real world.

For me, Blanca Paloma is the best live vocalist of this year’s contest and presented some of the best Eurovision staging I’ve ever seen in Spain’s national final, which ought to see this rewarded by more artistically-minded jurors. Spain is a clear contender for the jury win and if it goes on to achieve that, you would expect the price to shorten in running given the juries reveal their points first.

‘EAEA’ would probably need a hefty jury tally (i.e. over 300 points) to stand a chance, and a late-running order slot will be required to make up for its likely televote deficit. However, it’s a good idea to take a risk by backing a song at long odds with a wider spectrum of potential outcomes than one which invariably ends up fourth–tenth in your internal simulations.

Israel (41)

Like Norway, I don’t see this as a contender. The song is too disjointed and it’s not even the strongest in its own musical lane. Israel usually presents their entries well and the final 30 seconds have some potential in terms of staging if they go for something similar to Armenia in 2016. I think a similar result would be the absolute best it could hope for.

Czech Republic (60)

Czech Republic is the best value of any of the top eight in the market right now. ‘My Sister’s Crown’ was being tipped in all corners as a potential winner after its initial reveal, and even after the Czech national final it was trading in the teens.

Of course, that was before Sweden and Finland came along, but Czech Republic has drifted disproportionately compared to other songs that were trading at a similar price at the time, which doesn’t make much sense to me.

The national final performance was a bit of a dud, yes, but that was in a very low-budget environment with no real staging to assess, more along the lines of the Irish Late Late Show than Melodifestivalen. The music video is much more promising, and I believe some of the people behind it will also be involved in the staging for Eurovision, which gives me cause for optimism. If the staging is right, this could go very far.

The chorus of ‘My Sister’s Crown’ is really strong, and the ‘we are not your dolls’ anti-Putin rallying cry is musical gold dust which they would do well to emphasise in the live setting. The lyrics of this song work on multiple levels – it’s a feminist song about inner strength, while doubling as a pro-Ukraine one, where the titular sister stands as a personification of Ukraine itself. Vesna are relatable performers, and the entry is uplifting and warm while retaining some edge, which can be quite a hard thing to achieve musically.

It all comes down to how the song is staged and performed. But if it’s done right, this should do very well on both sides of the vote. Czech Republic has very few historical friends at Eurovision, but those relationships only really matter for the mid-table mass of songs and don’t tend to trouble contenders (just look at some of the recent winning countries).

United Kingdom (60)

Despite an underwhelming reception from traders, the UK has still ended up sitting in eighth place in the betting markets.

The UK will perform last in the final, which is certainly a boost for our chances of a left-hand-side finish, but a late-running order slot won’t magically turn a non-contender into a potential winner.

The involvement of one of Chanel’s dancers from last year in the music video suggests the UK delegation may be trying to emulate some of her success, so there is reason to be optimistic about the staging. 

This will get a pretty rapturous applause as the home entry in Liverpool being performed at the end of the lineup, but I think top ten would be the absolute ceiling for the UK this year.

Best Longshot - Netherlands (500)

Loud, in-your-face and aggressive entries are popular at this year’s Eurovision, so I’ve been thinking: could something more stripped-back stand out and rise through the ranks?

The Dutch entry is a well-written, contemporary ballad in the vein of Taylor Swift’s more recent work. It’s more of a slow burn than an instant hit, but it should be rewarded by the juries and it’s certainly got a higher ceiling than a lot of entries at much shorter prices. 

In 2014, the Netherlands managed to come from nowhere to finish runner-up by sending an understated and credible entry with excellent staging. That’s not to say ‘Burning Daylight’ will be the same, but I wouldn’t rule out this performing a lot better than its odds suggest.

It’s not in my list of major contenders by any stretch, but even if this is just a potential ‘buy now, cash out later’ bet, 500 is extremely generous for a song like this. There are plenty of opportunities for price shortenings – a strong Euro Jury showing, some good rehearsals and staging, or even a really strong jury performance as far down the road as the Eurovision final.

Best value Eurovision 2023 bets

Spain @ 40
Czech Republic @ 60
Netherlands @ 500

All odds quoted were available at the time of writing.

Patrick Flynn

17 March 2023

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