2002 Review - Second Half
Aah, now... here come Estonian linesmen Marko and Annely to entertain us while various sponsors negotiate deals with the rest of Europe. Leading us nicely in to Laura from Finland, an androgynous-looking lady who appears to have resorted to Brylcreem to give her hair that famous Stanley Matthews lick. She's not short of confidence and she's really giving potentially anonymous disco tune Addicted to You some oomph by taking the game out of the centre circle and really weaving about the pitch. It's clear to the crowd she's really enjoying this one, but I don't have to tell you the trouble the Finns have in convincing the people in the know of their ability. They haven't scored a top mark since 1977, have never finished in the first five and haven't broken the 30-point mark since 1989, but surely on the basis of that performance they're going to do better than usual. We'll have to wait and see.
And what a burden this young Danish girl brings with her to the Tallinn stage. Malene W Mortensen now has to follow up Denmark's patiently-awaited win in 2000 and close runner-up showing in 2001 with something really special. Now I know some people have been watching her in training and Tell Me Who You Are isn't regarded as a contender by any means, but let's just see how she does now. Here she comes; striding down that catwalk in a red dress to what sounds like the introductory bars to Paul Young's Come Back and Stay, but no, the crowd look listless and she is just plain nervous. It's a good song, perhaps not best suited for this type of tournament, but just look at this girl - is this really the same nation who set the scoreboard on fire in the first two years of the twenty-first century? There'll be some tough questions to answer in the Danish camp tonight, Gary.
Some jokers were saying before that the entry from Bosnia-Herzegovina begins like a tune from a DFS clearance sale advert, but that lady in black, Maja Tatic, surrounded by a number of confident wingers, definitely isn't bargain basement. Bosnia, of course, considered relegation fodder at Parken stadium last year, and their appearance again this year has really surprised a lot of people. My Eastern European languages aren't the best, as you know, so I'll just stick to calling this Fairytales About Love, but my god, Maja's selling it as though clearance sales had never been invented. What's this? Yes.., she's broken into English and the crowd love it - I'm sure none of you watching were aware that you can't get any sounds out of a broken bell. She was cocky without being arrogant and that was a very likeable performance. I'm sure Bosnia won't be disappointed with that. Or at least, I hope they won't.
Sergio has really got some punters behind him with Sister. It's now 16 years since Sandra Kim lifted the trophy above her none too substantial shoulders in Bergen and I know that Sergio, along with his ladies, think they're going to repeat that feat. Judging by his warm-up sessions, I'm not so sure, but this is gutsy West End rock, and the Belgian squad are well distributed about the pitch to make sure they get full coverage. It's a good thing too, as I see Sergio took a fall there after an ill-advised attempt at a half-arsed somersault, but I think all you saw at home was one of the guitarists on the left wing. Sergio's leather coat betrays the fact he's been eating a few too many pies between pre-tournament training sessions and one of the Sisters is getting so excited she's losing her ball control, but you can't hide the fact the crowd is lapping this one up. Sergio may well live up to his dream of taking the trophy back to Brussels. We'll see, anyway.
No-one can doubt, and I certainly won't, France's ability to win noteable prizes on a world stage. They may not have made that lap of honour since 1977, and we all remember them losing out on goal difference in 1991, but you have to admire their sheer stoicism in keeping on going. And you also have to note the irony in the title Il Faut du Temps, translating directly as 'It Takes Time', so they know they'll make it again one day. They've been clever by putting chanteuse Sandrine Francois under the wing of experienced coach Patrick Bruel and appealing to the Brits in this Golden Jubilee year by giving her a royal purple strip, but the real energy in this outing comes from the woman herself. She makes this look effortless, giving a Zidane-esque three minutes of honed talent. I know detractors will say this is a technical rather than entertaining performance but I for one feel honoured to have just witnessed what was in front of us here in Tallinn.
Mr Hansen may tell you that dark horses never win, but then again, neither do the favourites. Any concerns for Corinna May's visual impairment reaping in sympathetic decisions from across the board for her performance of I Can't Live Without Music for Germany will surely have withered in the ether the moment this rather messy performance began. Ralph Seigel, an experienced coach for the Germans, has never quite managed to repeat the 1982 success his protege Nicole experienced under the glamorous spotlights of the Harrogate Conference Centre, and he's going to go through another set of pencils after this. No discipline in the rest of the team, Corinna looks and sounds out of her depth as captain and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels as though their ear drums have been attacked by one of Kojo's backing group. There were worries today in the German camp that a possible tie between Germany and the UK after the voting might be resolved in a penalty shoot-out in the Suurhall car park between Corinna and Jessica, but I think we all know it won't be coming to that now. Just plain messy, Gary.
I admire Turkey for their ability to take the same moves and motions and repackage them slightly differently for each tournament. I'm reliably informed that Leylaklar Soldu Kalbinde translates as 'Lilacs have Faded in Your Heart' and, considering this rather negative sentiment, Buket Bengishu and her Grup Safir are certainly giving it lots of toothy smiles. Since they finished third five years ago, the Turks have tried desperately to get back into that Premier League of the first five, but they've fallen very short at each try. Another cunning attempt to impress the British by making Buket resemble Narinder from the popular TV show Big Brother, but surely the Turks should know by now just how unpopular that woman and her whining ways are/were. It's still smiles all round as this undoubtedly Turkish number draws to a close, but I still think they'll be left wanting by the final whistle.
Perseverance is an admirable asset and you have to hand it to Ira Losco, Gary. So many times beaten in her wish to represent the island of Malta in this tournament and here she finally comes, approaching the centre circle in a strip so white she must have been boiling it all night, and a slightly smug expression on her face. Her song, 7th Wonder, has been highly regarded by some of the less influential fans and she's in a prime position to have this Suurhall crowd behind her. Someone in Valletta has cannily called upon an international transfer from the East End of London to provide some whistling from a midfield position, so expect a favourable decision from the British linesmen. Ira makes sure she doesn't lose this baying crowd in the second half by firstly blowing glitter right into their faces and then striding confidently amongst them in a manner akin to Pat Cash's post-Wimbledon victory clamber. She's a looker, she's gutsy and she's well armed with a crackingly good tune. Watch out for this one, Gary.
Nations can be renowned for bringing different tempos into the game, and in sharp contrast to the Maltese attack we have the almost pedestrian Romanians. I'm concerned at the lack of aerodynamics in Monica Anghel, their chief striker, who seems unlikely to make a quick spurt across the pitch, but with team-mate Marcel Pavel they form a tightly choreographed defence almost slap-bang in the penalty box. Monica is moody, and keeps asking Marcel Tell Me Why, but the Romanian coaches can breathe a sigh of relief that each time he is able to give a very detailed answer to her question, thus keeping the doubts at bay. There is a lot of obvious energy here, and we could see it unleashed when it really matters later on, instead of the initial song phases. These two could be full of surprises.
But not as surprising as the Slovenians. I've never seen anything like these three, Gary. Quite possibly the most masculine women I have ever seen, and if it wasn't such a ridiculous notion, I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that these were men dressed up. But I know they can't be, because I quite fancy the one at the end. They's called Sestre, and they're singing Samo Ljubezen, whom I'm sure you know is one of the reserves for the Slovenian team out in Japan for the World Cup. This team build up strongly though, and their glittered red air hostess outfits would certainly distract any sly tackle from the opposition. They're a close-knit squad too, constantly indicating where they should be on the pitch and carrying a confident air which has a definite whiff of cockiness. They've certianly got the crowd on their side, and they've even attracted a pitch invasion, who appear to be three match officials in white suits. I hope they haven't come on to chastise the girls for their on-pitch antics, as that would be a real drag for the Slovenes.
The last time a song performed second to last began with an audible intake of breath was 1997, so lets hope this is a hoo-doo with a positive outcome for Marie N of Latvia. She's had a long time in the boot room to prepare for I Wanna, and instead of making her nervous, it's really boosted her and her team to give what must be one of the greatest displays of talent we've seen on this pitch all evening. The footwork is superb; the flow of play and passing between players is a true masterclass in how to maximise that 180 seconds to its full potential. Not to mention the use of the classic Victor/Victoria manouevre. Marie N is an assured captain, and one which her squad is not afraid to show its admiration and affection for, sometimes even too much. Their dedication is proved by the willingness to keep Marie cool in the second half by helping her out of most of her kit, with the effect of what surely must be a last-minute clincher for the Latvians. Song's not too bad, either.
Pre-season problems in the Lithuanian saw the dismissal of the entire original squad, but Aivaras has stoically stepped in to ensure his country gains at least pride from this tournament if nothing else. He has chosen a bohemian strip for himself and his defence, very reminiscent of the time Carnaby Street Casuals sponsored many of the 1973 squads in Luxembourg. Aivaras seems pensive out there on the pitch for much of the performance of Happy You, perhaps realising Marie N may have this tournament in the bag and all he can play for now is his ticket to the after-show party. It's a good song though, which just needed a more powerful set of vocal chords behind it. We all know how successful the last team fielded can be though, so I wouldn't say Aivaras will finish right at the bottom of the pile at this stage.
High drama follows Aivaras's exit from the pitch as the stadium is threatened with destruction from a large meteorite, but it seems this is only the heralding of several reserve teams out on to the pitch to ply for sympathy from the crowd as the linesmen reach their crucial decisions. These are the reserve sides with good reason, but it is interesting at least to see what must be the first Italian side to take part in this tournament for five years - as the bare-chested lads chastising themselves with the birch en masse can only be good Catholic boys. This otherwise unremarkable display is, I'm sure, only making the tension build up more and more for the viewers at home as we await Marko and Annely to reappear, in different clothing, for this decisive part of the match.
As the pair call each country's linesmen in turn, I don't think we need a crystal ball to see that this is clearly between Malta and Latvia, teams which have never taken the trophy - but one of which surely will by the final whistle. Despite receiving the thumbs down from four of the first six eligible refs, Jessica Garlick soon makes great strides into the scoreboard, as do Estonia, France and Cyprus with Spain and Sweden doing surprisingly slow business and the tight Romanian squad proving to be the dark horse of this tournament. Germany, on the other hand, must have got into the showers before the scoreboard was even switched on. Sadly, and I'm sure we can all see, there is no escape from the partisan decisions of those referees who don't want to suffer at the hands from angry fans across the border. So it's all they can do to keep the peace by offering very favourable decisions to all their friends.
And this is where the, perhaps more deserving, Maltese come unstuck. After a period of a constantly interchanging lead between Ira Losco and the Latvians, it was up to the Lithuanians, practically Marie N's bedfellows to blow the final whistle.
After the spokeswoman in Vilnius had announced all but her 12 points, both sides were level on 164 points, the Lithuanians still hadn't given the Latvians anything, and that douze had to go somewhere.
We knew it was all over. It was then.
Gary, it's been a great night here in Tallinn - back to you in the studio.
Thank you, erm, John, for that
fascinating review-cum-commentary of Eurovision 2002.
Of course, John isn't the first guest reviewer whose services have been employed by Whoops Dragovic, why not have a look at:
Review of the Eurovision Song Contest
2001 by William Shakespeare
Review of the Eurovision Song Contest 2000 by Dolly Parton
Review of the Eurovision Song Contest 1999 by Jane Austen