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Eurovision: Who are the five hot favourites for song contest glory?

Hosts of the Eurovision Song Contest Laura Pausini, right, stands on stage with Mika, left, and Alessandro Cattelan during the second semi final at the Eurovision Song Contest
Hosts of the Eurovision Song Contest Laura Pausini, right, stands on stage with Mika, left, and Alessandro Cattelan during the second semi final at the Eurovision Song Contest   -   Copyright  AP Photo   -  
By Andrea Carlo

This year's Eurovision Song Contest in Italy is bringing joy and music to living rooms across the continent just when it's needed the most -- amid a devastating war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis. 

The final takes place on Saturday, beamed live around the world from the PalaOlumpic Arena in the northern city of Torino. 

So which countries are hitting the high notes in this year's contest? The bookmakers have shortened the odds on these five acts: 

Ukraine: Kalush Orchestra - Stefania

In a competition as heavily politicised as Eurovision, it comes as little surprise that Ukraine's entry would emerge as the bookies' favourite, with a whopping 8/13 odds.

This year’s Ukrainian Eurovision entry is an ode to maternal love from folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra, called Stefania (a tribute to frontman Oleh Psiuk’s own mother).

Members of Kalush Orchestra have said they want to “lift spirits” with their song, especially as members of the group -- including dancer Vlad Kurochka -- volunteered to stay in Ukraine and fight in the war. 

United Kingdom: Sam Ryder - Space Man

The United Kingdom has been accused of rarely taking the contest seriously over the last decades, and a string of calamitous results culminated in last year's entry getting the dreaded nul points from both the international juries, and voting public. 

But this year the UK seems to have turned things around with wildly popular social media star Sam Ryder possibly going to reverse the nation's Eurovision misfortunes, with odds of winning at 8/1.

Competing with glam rock anthem “Space Man”, Ryder’s powerhouse vocals on display in the song’s soaring chorus have drawn praise from music critics. 

And the singer already has a huge online presence with 12.4 million followers on TikTok and 3.4 million on Instagram. 

Sweden: Cornelia Jakobs - Hold Me Closer

Sweden is a Eurovision powerhouse with six wins over the decades, and the most top-five results of any country in the 21st century.

The Nordic nation's last win came only seven years ago, when Swedish Idol star Måns Zelmerlöw’s triumphed with his soaring dance track Heroes.

So could Sweden win again this year? According to bookmakers, it has a good shot of claiming the top spot once again, ranked as having the third-best odds.

Representing the country is Cornelia Jakobs, with her stripped-down, electro-pop breakup ballad Hold Me Closer. 

Music critics have praised its lyrics and musical direction as a refreshing change from the country’s usually highly polished entries. 

Italy: Mahmood and Blanco - Brividi

Mahmood is a Eurovision veteran by now, after finishing as runner-up in 2019 with his Arabic-pop signature hit Soldi (Money) -- which nodded to his Egyptian heritage -- having previously taken Europe’s charts by storm. 

It racked up 193 million views on YouTube and even sparked the ire of Italy’s far-right leader, Matteo Salvini.

This year, the 29-year-old soulster will be sharing the Eurovision stage with teenage pop-rap sensation Blanco, whose rapid ascent to stardom came after he and Mahmood won Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival for their song and current entry, Brividi (Shivers).

The ballad’s spacey trip-hop sound and candid lyrical depiction of the vulnerability of love have made it a popular choice - and a contender for the top spot. 

The song has already amassed more than 55 million views on YouTube, topped Italy and Switzerland’s charts, and has broken the Italian record for most Spotify streams in a day.

Spain: Chanel - SloMo

Coming in fifth at the bookmakers, Spain’s Chanel has emerged as one of this year’s Eurovision hot favourites.

Her reggaeton hit SloMo is arguably the raciest and most upbeat of the entries listed here. 

It has seen the Cuban-born actress and singer -- a former backup dancer for Colombian superstar Shakira -- showcase her dance moves on the stage.

The song has been particularly well received on social media, where fans express their support using the mango emoji. 

Given Spain’s poor placing in last year’s competition -- coming in third last place -- fans are pinning their hopes on Chanel’s entry to turn things around. 

Who will you be voting for?