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Finland’s Sandhja kicks off Eurovision Song Contest facing tough odds

Finland’s Eurovision 2016 hopeful Sandhja will set the stage for the campy song contest as she performs in the first semi-final in Stockholm Tuesday evening. The Finnish-Indo-Caribbean entrant will be facing stiff competition in the form of bookie favourite, Sergey Lazarev from Russia. On Thursday, another punter prospect, Ukraine's Jamala, will take to the stage. Based on the odds, a Finnish win in 2016 would be a long shot indeed.

Suomen euroviisuedustaja Sandhja Uuden Musiikin Kilpailun finaalissa. Image: Timo Korhonen / AOP

So far Sandhja’s upbeat ode to casting aside the blues, Sing It Away, has been on the receiving end of many positive comments on social media. One Polish commentor even promised her a sure vote.

"I like the song, I’m hearing influences from the 60s."

When Sandhja was selected to represent Finland in the annual orgy of heart-rending ballads and candy-floss pop, she said that the sheer joyousness of her performance could clinch a win.

So far she’s been proven partly right, as her energy and positive attitude as a performer have won accolades from international audiences. Observers have noted that the song is precisely the right choice to open the semi-final – and the competition.

If online comments are anything to go by, Finland definitely has a chance this time around. It hasn’t come anywhere near winning since monster rock act Lordi swept the competition in 2006.

Some fans have more sober assessments of Finland’s chances, though. One social media denizen said that Sandhja could sing her way into the final but would have a tough time following up with a win.

Strong contenders from Russia, Ukraine

The final of this year’s glitzy, kitsch competition takes place in Stockholm’s Globen arena on Saturday. Yle will broadcast the semi-finals and the finals on Yle TV2 and it will stream live on Yle Areena, with international sign included.

Sandhja will face stiff competition in the first semi-final. Among them are early viewer picks Austria and Russia, both of whom Finnish fans have ranked in their top five.

A total of 18 performers will appear in the first semi-final – ten of them will be selected to move on to Saturday’s final, which will include host Sweden as well as the big five sponsor countries, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain.

Bookies bearish on Finnish prospects

On Thursday another early favourite, Ukraine, will also take to the stage in the second semi-final. Performing under the name Jamala, Ukrainian songstress Susanna Jamaladinova’s song _1944 _is a retrospective that takes listeners back in time to Stalin’s mass deportation of Tartars from their homes in Crimea.

Jamala brings intensity and credibility to the rendition – she is a Tartar descendant whose grandmother was among those forced out of Crimea.

Russia filed an objection to the Ukrainian entry, claiming that it was political in nature. However the judges' panel overruled the objection and found that the song did not violate competition rules.

For its part, Russia’s entry, a melodramatic power ballad You Are the Only One, will be performed by pop star Sergey Lazarev.

Regardless – or perhaps because of the controversy - bookies have ranked both the Ukrainian and Russian entries as top picks for the competition. Others favourites include France, Sweden and Australia.

However Sandhja remains far from the lead pack. Ranked at number 33, her chances of bringing the competition back to Finland appear to be very slim – unless, like Lordi 10 years ago, she pulls off the unexpected.

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