OK! Magazine’s Associate Editor, Phil Gould, has been in Lisbon this week to check out the runners and riders for Eurovision 2018 - and gives us his low-down on the two semi finals.

OK! Magazine’s Associate Editor, Phil Gould, has been in Lisbon this week to check out the runners and riders for Eurovision 2018 - and gives us his low-down on the two semi finals.

Eurovision is so much bigger than when I last attended. 20 more countries in fact. The Portuguese perhaps don’t have the same organisational flair as, say, the Baltic nations, but I have really enjoyed their hospitality and my time on the coast.

I’ve managed to see the dress runs for both semi-finals, and agreed with most of the choices, though I was disappointed Switzerland did not qualify.

The semi-final 2 dress run had a few technical problems, including somebody breaking the Swedes’ neon stage set, which went down well!  I could only pick six that I felt had a strong chance of qualifying. I kind of felt a little sorry for the Russian performer, Julia Samoylova, who seemed to be placed on some kind of ‘volcano’ set.  Eurovision fans will recall that she was last year’s Russian entry, but was denied participation by hosts Ukraine. There’s a chance Russia might not qualify for the final, which would normally register as a shock, but might not come as that much of a surprise after Armenia, Azerbaijan and Greece fell by the wayside in semi one.

In semi two, this evening, prepare yourself to see a Ukrainian man trapped in a piano, a Lithuanian women singing to her husband about being pensioners, Moldova’s answer to Sesame Street, and ear-splitting entries from Hungary and Slovenia.  The Netherlands have transformed their country song into a Bon Jovi style rock anthem - which I think works well and should qualify for final.  Australia seems to be going out in the betting odds. She is good performer, but would be better just standing still instead of moving around the stage so much. Malta comes across well in auditorium and it is written by Swedish Eurovision veteran Thomas g:son, who penned Sweden’s Euro classic, Euphoria. Saara Altoo’s song, meanwhile, was written by some of the same team who wrote Mans Zelmerlow’s ‘Heroes’ - so watch this space.  And this year's Swedish entrant Benjamin Ingrosso’s mum, Pernilla Wahlgren, tried to represent Sweden five times - so the boy has a certain pedigree. The family are the Kardashians of Sweden, as they have their own TV reality show. 

Having listened to all the songs, I am still not sure what will win overall, although I think it’s unlikely to be Israel. Although not everyone seems to like him for some reason (strange given he is one of Eurovision’s biggest ever winners), most people here admit that Alexander Rybak stands a good chance of winning for Norway for a second time. The fans out here have put Cyprus as the new favourite, but that's Eurovision for you. Cyprus is impressive because of the way she dances and sings her way from start to finish. Not to mention all her hair swinging! I also think that France has a tilt at winning, which would be nice as they haven't triumphed since 1977. The Albanian singer is an amazing vocalist. One of the best in the contest. But, going on what’s won through in the last two years, I wouldn’t rule out Hungary!

My hunch is that UK will be mid to late teens at best, which is a pity, as it’s not too bad an entry. There's a rumour, however, that the BBC rejected this year's Austrian entry. If they did, somebody needs a major telling off, as it's contemporary and is performed well by Cesár Sampson, who I hear is the nephew of Pepsi of Pepsi and Shirlie fame. He’s a very good performer, and had done backing vocals for Bulgaria the past two years.

I’ll sign off now, as I have some Portuguese custard tarts to consume!

Os melhores votos, Phil.