Eurovision 2021: Malta dealt devastating blow as Italy emerges as new favourite to win

Eurovision: Måneskin perform Zitti E Buoni at semi-final

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The Eurovision Song Contest celebrates its 65th anniversary this year and the proceedings have already begun. Tuesday night saw the first semi-final hosted in Dutch city Rotterdam and the second semi-final will be held on Thursday (May 20). But, after the results came in from the first round, bookies appear to have a new frontrunner in the race to be crowned the Eurovision winner.

The first semi-final of the competition saw some shock exits as Ireland and Australia were among six nations to be booted out of the contest.

Croatia, North Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia were also eliminated from the international singing competition, after not gaining enough votes to take them through to the final.

Ireland’s Lesley Roy failed to impress with her performance and as a result Ireland, which has previously had seven wins, has now failed to qualify for six of the last seven finals.

Meanwhile, Australia’s early exit from the competition marks the first time the country has failed to make the final since it began competing in 2015.

The 10 nations voted through to the next round from the first semi-final are Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Israel, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine.

Malta’s 18-year-old singer Destiny, who won Junior Eurovision in 2015, was previously tipped to win the grand final, but following her performance on Tuesday night, the odds have changed.

It is currently a three-horse race to be crowned as the winner of Eurovision 2021, according to bookmakers Ladbrokes.

Following the first semi-final on Tuesday evening, the betting market has reacted, and Italy’s odds of winning have been cut into 5/2, with France just behind at 10/3.

Meanwhile, Malta now finds itself rated with a 4/1 shot at winning (from 6/1).

Bulgaria (2/1) is the current favourite to emerge as the winner of the second semi-final, with Iceland (9/4) and Switzerland (5/2) also in serious contention.

Iceland’s act however has been forced to withdraw from performing after one of its band members tested positive for Covid-19.

However, the band’s song 10 Years will remain as a contender in the competition.

Organisers announced on Wednesday that Daði og Gagnamagnið had “taken the difficult decision to withdraw from performing… as they only want to perform together as a group”.

Instead, a rehearsal performance of their song 10 Years will be screened during Thursday’s semi-final, and again on Saturday if they progress to the grand final.

As for the UK’s entry, it’s still an outside chance at 100/1 that John Newman secures victory for the UK this weekend in Rotterdam, while it’s only 11/10 for a last-place finish.

Jessica O’Reilly of Ladbrokes said: “Eurovision betting is wide open this year and punters currently favour Maneskin to land the spoils for Italy.

“But, it’s going to be tight with France and Malta also proving incredibly popular bets.

“Unfortunately it’s the same old story for the UK and it’s almost certainly going to be another disappointing song contest,” she added.

The competition is being held in Dutch city Rotterdam this year, after last year’s event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2021 contest continues on Thursday (May 20) with the second semi-final ahead of the grand final on Saturday.

The Eurovision Song Contest will air across the BBC, as well as Eurovision’s official YouTube channel.

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