Game on: Israel's Netta advances to Eurovision finals with hit song 'Toy'

Barzilai will aim for the title on Saturday night, but the betting charts now put their money on Cyprus.

Israel’s Netta performs “Toy” during the Semi-Final 1 for Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon (photo credit: PEDRO NUNES/REUTERS)
Israel’s Netta performs “Toy” during the Semi-Final 1 for Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon
(photo credit: PEDRO NUNES/REUTERS)
Netta Barzilai, Israel's contestant in this year's Eurovision singing competition, advanced to the finals of the contest after the Tuesday night semi-final.
"I am proud and moved that I succeeded in making it to the final," she said at the end of the night. "I'm looking forward to Saturday and I promise to do all I can to bring the Eurovision to Israel."
Barzilai and nine other competitors - out of the 19 performances on Tuesday night - moved forward from the first semi-final. The second contest will be held on Thursday night, to determine who will make up the 26 finalists performing on Saturday.
While Israel was the favorite among the betting websites to win for almost two months, just before the beginning of the competition it slipped down in the rankings. Replacing Israel at the top instead was Cyprus's Eleni Foureira. As of Wednesday morning, Israel had moved down to fourth place, past Norway and France, neither of whom performed in the first semi-final.  
I don"t want to jinx anything, Eurovision Song Contest favorite Israeli"s Netta Barzilai says, May 3, 2018 (Reuters)
But Barzilai's performance of "Toy" got rave reviews both inside and outside Israel.
Fania Oz-Salzberger, a professor and the daughter of famed author Amos Oz, tweeted that she "unashamedly" loves the song "Toy."
"It's bold, fun, female, and chutzpah," she wrote. "What's more, she stands for my kind of Israel."
Paul Dunphy Esquire, an Irish commentator, said Barzilai's performance was "batshit crazy wonderful... LOVE HER."
The audience in Lisbon seemed to get moving when Barzilai took the stage, and gave her a resounding round of applause.
But the crowd also went crazy for Cyprus's Foureira, who brought some slick Beyonce-style dance moves and strong vocals on her song "Fuego."
Eran Swissa, the culture reporter for Israel Hayom, who is in Lisbon, said the audience reaction to Cyprus was overwhelming.
"If we're judging by the response from the crowd in the hall then we have a winner," Swissa tweeted. "And it's not Netta."
As usual there was a significant contingent of Israeli fans present in the theater on Tuesday night. A large inflatable Israeli flag hammer was visible throughout many of the performances. Overall, the night was full of the fun, kitschy and glitzy components found at every Eurovision. Most of the songs were performed in English, but Albania, Armenia and Greece sang songs in their native tongues, while Estonia opted for a song - an opera, really - in Italian.
The other countries to advance on Tuesday night were Austria, Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Albania, Finland and Ireland. At one point Belgium was considered a frontrunner, but it didn't make the cut in this semi-final round.
This is the fourth year in a row that Israel has qualified for the Eurovision final.
Barzilai will compete in the finals on Saturday night, which will air at 10pm local time on Kan 11. The running order for the final will be determined after Thursday's semi-final competition.