Molly Sterling to fight the odds in Eurovision semi-final

Rehearsals are going well, but bookies don’t think Irish entry capable of reaching final

Molly Sterling from Ireland performs during the dress rehearsal for the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest  in Vienna. Photograph: Getty Images

Molly Sterling from Ireland performs during the dress rehearsal for the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Molly Sterling will need to put everything she’s got into her performance in Thursday night’s second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Her delivery of the ballad Playing with Numbers, which she co-wrote with Greg French, is improving with each rehearsal, and she is succeeding in making the all-important eye contact with the camera that was lacking from her rehearsal appearances last week.

“Rehearsals have been going really well,” Sterling said yesterday. “Everyone is so laid-back – we’re really enjoying the experience. When I’m sitting [onstage] I can’t see much of what’s going on in the room because of the big lights but the band gives me a big thumbs-up ... It feels like a family.”

Despite the act’s improvements, major betting sites do not predict that the Irish entry will qualify; Oddschecker. com ranks Playing by Numbers 15th most likely to qualify out of tonight’s 17 entries, and Paddy Power has it at 14th out of 17.

Sterling performs second in the evening’s running order, between two duets – the sunny Lithuanian number This Time and San Marino’s Chain of Lights, which is ranked least likely to qualify by Oddschecker.

This is widely acknowledged as the more competitive of the two semi-finals, and not just because there is one more act competing night than Tuesday’s night’s 16. Some of the most talked-about acts this year – including the act predicted to win overall, Sweden’s Måns Zelmerlöw with Heroes – are singing tonight.

Amongst the buzz-generating acts this evening are Norway’s A Monster Like Me, an eerie duet by the striking Mørland and Debrah Scarlett; Israel’s Nadav Guedj with the dance number Golden Boy, which electrified the crowd at yesterday’s afternoon rehearsal; Slovenia’s husband and wife duo Maraaya with Here for You; and Azerbaijan’s Elnur Huseynov with Hour of the Wolf, in an elaborate staging for which the Azeri entries in recent years have become well known. All four of these acts are the top of the betting polls to qualify.

And then there’s Sweden. With its extraordinarily well-crafted stage production featuring interactive video projections, ear-wormy (if entirely nonsensical) chorus, and camera-friendly, leather-trouser-clad performer, Heroes was a fan favourite since the Swedish qualifying rounds in March, and has emerged as the song to beat at Saturday’s final.

The surging Russian number A Million Voices, which qualified on Tuesday, and the Italian trio Il Volo singing Grande Amore, who pre-qualified for the final, are seen as Zemerlöw’s main competition for overall victory.