Well, if I had any sense I would hang up my Eurovision prediction shoes at this point, but I don't think I'll be the only person feeling that way tonight! Although few anticipated Italy's runner-up spot, with the benefit of hindsight it's not hard to understand how it happened, because stylistically the song stood out an absolute mile. But Ukraine in fourth? I'm still scratching my head. OK, they're one of the countries who traditionally benefit from political voting and that was certainly the case tonight, but that can't be the whole of the explanation. It's hard to escape the conclusion that people were voting for the sand-artist rather than for the song or the singer.
Even though it wasn't the outcome I anticipated, I'm reasonably happy with it - at least the Azerbaijani song had a bit of charm and warmth about it, which is more than can be said for the typically formulaic Swedish offering. But it's interesting to see that Azerbaijan didn't win their semi-final (they were second behind Greece), so clearly there was nothing inevitable about the result. I was also really delighted when Italy pipped Sweden to second place with the very last vote cast. Hopefully this success should now cement Italy's place in the contest after a fourteen-year absence - although it has to be said that when they called it a day after 1997 it was off the back of an excellent fourth-place finish, so you just never know!
As I find myself saying at this point every year, it's undeniable that political voting continues to plague the contest. It probably didn't decide the winner this year, as all of the top-placed countries had natural allies (even Italy had San Marino and Malta), so it would have evened itself out to some extent. And we also know from Finland's victory a few years back that it's possible for countries with few allies to overcome the bias and win big. But there's no getting away from the fact that it's a significant disadvantage for some countries, and unquestionably affected the final rankings tonight. It's hard to see an obvious solution other than something very contrived such as giving each country a 'blacklist' of neighbours and friends they're not allowed to vote for. Even returning to a 100% jury vote wouldn't necessarily resolve the problem - Greece and Cyprus used to routinely swap twelve points every bit as much in the old days.
Incidentally, my one small criticism of Graham Norton (who in general was excellent again) is that I wish he would study a map of Europe before commentating on the voting. I couldn't believe he didn't pick up on the significance of Romania and Moldova voting for each other!
My own votes went to France and Spain - and funnily enough I think I might have done that even without my personal rule of only voting for songs not performed in English. I hadn't previously paid a huge amount of attention to the Spanish entry, partly because it wasn't involved in the semi-finals, but I completely fell in love with it tonight. Sad to see it didn't get the support it deserved - and the lowly ranking of Austria disappointed me a bit as well.
Last but not least, I'm really chuffed to say that this blog received the biggest number of visitors in its three-year history yesterday (ie. Saturday) as people landed here after searching for Eurovision predictions. Thanks to everyone for dropping by - I just wish I could have been more accurate for you! Ah well, at least I can cling to having got Denmark in the right place...