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Carola swept through to final

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11:30 CET+01:00
Carola, veteran of Melodifestivalen and former winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, sailed through to the Swedish contest's final round on Saturday with a tour de force in Gothenburg's Scandinavium arena. Sharing the honours was balladeer Björn Kjellman, who will also go on to next week's final in Stockholm's Globen.

Carola was the big favourite to from the start, with every mention of her name eliciting a ripple of applause from the audience in Gothenburg. The last of the eight contestants to take her place on the stage, expectations were high for her power ballad Evighet (Invincible in its English version).

Her performance was characteristically assured, with her her now trademark wind machine sweeping back her hair and blue culottes.

When the results came through, there was no doubt that she would be going to the final. Less predictable was Björn Kjellman, but his enthusiastic performance of his sentimental ballad Älskar du Livet clearly went down well with the television audience. Kjellman said his song was inspired by Finnish music, and he has recorded versions in both Finnish and French.

Carola was not the only blast from the past to shake Scandinavium. Swedish cowboy band Rednex, who enjoyed international success with Cotton-Eye Joe in the nineties, were voted through to the 'Second Chance' run-off round on Sunday. Their Mama Take me Home convinced viewers to give their career one more chance.

The other entry to go through to the Second Chance round was Roger Pontare's Silverland. The ample Pontare, dressed in long aquamarine fur-trimmed robes like a hypothermic Santa Claus, Pontare's song drew heavily on the atmosphere of Nordic sagas. His next chance to convince viewers that he should represent Sweden in Athens will come on Sunday night, where he will perform Stockholm.

Those going home empty handed from Gothenburg on Saturday included comic Teutonic group Günther and the Sunshine Girls, which ended up in seventh place with Like Fire Tonight. Sandra Dahlberg ended in fifth place with Jag tar det jag vill ha. Laila Adéle's Don't try to stop me was in sixth place.

Bringing up the rear was Evan, whose eighties-style Don't Try to Stop Me owed more than a little to the Pet Shop Boys, but who failed to find favour from voters.

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