Eurovision Finals Coming Into Focus, Cyprus Is Nation to Beat

Posted on: May 11, 2018, 02:00h. 

Last updated on: May 11, 2018, 02:07h.

Eurovision is one of the world’s biggest music events, bringing acts from across Europe (and, for the past two years, Australia) to compete in the annual song contest. It’s always an event filled with spectacle and surprises, and this year might see the winner come from a country that has never before topped the competition.

Eurovision Song Contest 2018
Eleni Foureira of Cyprus performs during the first semifinal of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. (Image: Lauren Outerson/EuroVisionary)

After the two semifinal nights earlier this week, Cyprus has emerged as the favorite in the 2018 edition of the Eurovision Song Contest. The Mediterranean island nation is represented by Greek pop artist Eleni Foureira, who dazzled audiences during Tuesday’s first semifinal with her up-tempo dance song “Fuego.”

Cyprus Looking for First Eurovision Win

The fact that Foureira has emerged as a favorite means that this could be a historic year for Cyprus, a country that rarely gets to shine on the international stage. Cyprus has never qualified for a World Cup or even a European Championship in soccer, and they haven’t done much in Eurovision, either: the nation has never won the song contest, and last finished in the top 10 in 2004.

Bookmakers seem to think that this is the year that the nation could finally break through. Cyprus is listed as the 11/8 favorite at Ladbrokes heading into Saturday night’s final. That puts them clearly ahead of the second choice, Israel. Represented by Neeta and her song “Toy,” Israel was considered the early favorite to win the contest, and is still listed as a strong 3/1 contender.

Nations were able to qualify for the final in a variety of ways. The “Big Five” of England, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain automatically qualify every year. In addition, last year’s winner serves as the host, and gets an automatic qualification spot. This year, that honor goes to Portugal, with the competition taking place in Lisbon.

Other nations are split into two semifinals, each qualifying 10 more acts. Israel and Cyprus both qualified out of the first semifinal round on Tuesday.

Chinese TV Censors Acts, Banned from Airing Final

That night wasn’t without controversy, however. Mango TV censored two acts – Ireland and Albania – on the Chinese broadcast because they included LGBT themes. The European Broadcasting Union responded by banning Mango TV from airing the Saturday’s final. One of the acts targeted by the censors, Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaughnessy, is currently the third choice in betting at 8/1 for his song “Together.”

Fewer contenders came out of the second group of semifinalists, though there were still surprises. In a result that stunned many observers, Russia failed to qualify for the first time since the semifinal format began in 2004. Azerbaijan and Romania will also be missing the finals for the first time this year.

Saturday’s final round will see all 26 remaining acts perform one last time for audiences across Europe and around the world. Each of the participating nations will then get to vote for their 10 favorite acts (other than their own) twice: once by public vote, and once by a professional jury.

Acts will earn points based on how they finish in each individual vote. Once all of the results are tabulated, the country with the most total points is declared the Eurovision winner.

The Eurovision Song Contest has been held every year since 1956, and is organized by the European Broadcasting Union.