I recently saw Portugal’s national final, Festival da Canção, described as “hipster Eurovision” and I thought that was quite an apt depiction. It stands out from the rest of the national finals, and it’s a real Eurovision palate cleanser – the songs are generally distinctively Portuguese (or with African and Brazilian influences), mixed in genre, but generally avoiding the Eurovision templates that you see in many other national selections. And they like to surprise – last year’s winner seemingly came from nowhere but went on to give Portugal one of their best results outside of the 2017 win.
Given what happened last year, I approach this preview with extreme caution when naming the two apparent favourites (as the two favourites last year did not win). There’s also a bit of a wildcard here – unlikely to win but would be quite something if it did as would bring a very different genre and vibe to the main contest.
Favourite 1: Syro “Ainda nos temos”
This is the most conventional of the choices here but that’s not to do it down – Syro has a beautiful voice and would be a deserved win if that does happen. It would be entering what is now quite a plentiful field of very strong male vocalists at the contest itself.
Favourite 2: Maro “Saudade, saudede”
This is many people’s pick to win the Festival da Canção and I can see why – it’s a gentle, mesmerising song by Maro and blends English and Portuguese lyrics beautifully. It’s not exactly what you’d call Eurovision friendly, but I think it would be a very fine and authentic representative for Portugal.
Wildcard: Pongo and Tristany “Dégrá.dê”
This is the wildcard of the Portuguese national final, bringing something very different to both Festival da Canção and Eurovision. Pongo is an Angolan-Portuguese singer and songwriter, and the African influences are clear to see in her duet with Tristany. This would be an incredibly bold choice for Portugal (which they have done before) but I think this won’t quite get enough love from juries or public vote.
The final takes place from 9pm UK time on Saturday 12 March and you can watch it via the broadcaster’s website.