Eurovision Song Contest final set to kick off

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest final is set to take place in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on Saturday night, with the UK’s hopes resting on veteran performer Engelbert Humperdinck.

The 76-year-old singer will be the first on stage on Saturday night, hoping to score the nation’s sixth Eurovision victory with his ballad Love Will Set You Free.

And he told the BBC that the responsibility of flying the flag for the UK was “pretty heavy-duty”.

“I never realised the magnitude of how big it was,” he said. “But I am thrilled to be representing my country in this contest.”

However he will face some stiff competition from Jedward, who are representing Ireland for the second year running, this time with the song Waterline – as well as Russia’s Buranovo Grannies – a group of folk-singing pensioners hoping for victory with their song Party For Everybody.

The bookies favourite to take the prize however is Sweden’s Loreen singing the dance track Euphoria – while entries from Italy, Serbia and Spain are also tipped to do well.

The UK is one of six countries who have directly qualified for the Eurovision final, automatically scoring a place as one of the five main financiers of the show along with Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Host nation Azerbaijan also have an automatic final place.

The other 20 countries in the final were determined following two semi-final heats held on Tuesday and Thursday this week.

Both Ireland and Russia made it through from Tuesday night’s semi-final, while other qualifiers included Romania, Iceland, Denmark, Albania, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus and Moldova.

Favourites Sweden and Serbia were voted through in Thursday’s semi-final along with Lithuania, Ukraine, FYR Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Norway, Estonia, Turkey and Malta – back in the final for the first time since 2009.

However the likes of Israel, Slovenia, Portugal, Switzerland, Croatia and the Netherlands – who have not been in a Eurovision final since 2004 – were among those who missed out on a place in Saturday’s show.

The UK last won the contest in 1997 with Katrina And The Waves’ Love Shine A Light, although have had a patchy track record in recent years, finishing last three times in the past 10 years.

Last year Blue’s song I Can finished 11th with 100 points.