The finals are set for the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, with Cyprus emerging from the semi-final rounds with the song to beat.
Acts from 26 nations will compete on Saturday in Lisbon for the coveted Eurovision title. Along with the “Big Five” of England, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy, as well as last year’s winner Portugal (which now also serves as the host), 20 artists fought their way through the semifinal round to reach the main event this weekend.
First Semifinal Packed with Contenders
The first of the two semifinals was held on Tuesday, and featured at least two songs that look like potential winners this weekend.
Israel has been listed as the clear favorite to win Eurovision for weeks, with singer Netta performing her song “Toy.” She once again impressed on Tuesday, combining a strong vocal performance with her signature chicken dance, providing the kind of catchy, high-octane show that make her a likely winner.
But later that night, another act rose up to steal the show. Cyprus’ Eleni Foureira performed her pop song “Fuego,” one that could easily be played at parties and clubs around the world. Not only does the song feel like a potential hit, but Foureira was also praised for her dancing and presentation.
While Foureira may not be a household name, she’s well known in Greece, where she was once one of three members of the Greek girl group Mystique. Since that act broke up in 2009, she’s been the most successful member, becoming one of Greece’s biggest pop stars. Foureira has tried to represent Greece at Eurovision several times, but finally found her breakthrough representing Cyprus instead.
Foureira’s performance saw Cyprus rocket up the list of contenders. William Hill now has Foureira as the favorite to win the contest, with Cyprus listed at 5/4 odds of being the Eurovision winner. Israel (11/4) remains in second, with those two countries being far ahead of the pack heading into the final.
That first semifinal also saw Ireland qualify for the final for the first time since 2013. Singer Ryan O’Shaughnessy and his song “Together” offered a mellower alternative to the banging hits of the two favorites, a quiet guitar and piano song that portrays a same-sex romance. Ireland (7/1) has also emerged as one of the potential favorites in the finals field.
Behind those top three are France (12/1) and Germany (16/1), two of the countries that weren’t forced to go through the semifinal qualification round.
Russia Fails to Qualify for Final
Thursday’s semifinal was notably weaker. Perhaps the strongest performance came from Sweden’s Benjamin Ingrosso, who sang “Dance You Off.” Sweden is considered a 20/1 contender to walk away with the Eurovision title this weekend.
But the second semifinal was more notable for who didn’t make it through. For the first time in contest history, Russia didn’t make it through to the finals. This will actually be the second straight year without a Russian entry in the final round, as last year the country didn’t participate because the contest was being hosted in Ukraine.
In the finals, each finalist will perform once more, after which every nation participating will get the chance to vote and give points to their top 10 favorite songs – once in a public vote, and once via a hand-picked jury. The points from these votes will be totaled, with the act receiving the most total points will be declared the Eurovision winner.