Editorials & Opinion

The draw – does conventional wisdom hold up?

With today’s semifinal allocation draw upon us, it seemed like a good time to go digging about in the semifinal numbers.
To start with, let me say that I’ve only taken data from the semifinals between 2010 and 2013 inclusive. 2004-2007 were discounted because there was only one semifinal, and almost all countries voted in them; whilst 2008-2009 I left out because they were decided by pure televotes and a jury save. The data from 2010-2013 gives us four years’ worth of solid figures from a two semifinal, 50-50 system.
So, what’s lurking in the numbers? Ultimately I set out to prove the logic that you’re better off being drawn in the second half of a semi than the first. Looking back over the past four years, 35 qualifiers came from the first half and 45 from the second – so that holds up.
But what is interesting to look at is the average points a country scores in each half. Over three of the last four years, a country has averaged more points in the second half than they have in the first, as you can see on the graph below:

It should be noted though that in 2013, the first half of semifinal one contained Denmark, Russia, and Ukraine – all of whom scored at least 140 points, and were three of the top four on final night itself; and the other member of that top four was Azerbaijan who performed in the top half of semifinal two. With the top four of the entire contest singing in the first half of their respective semifinals, there might be a bit of a skew in the overall data.
If you break that down further to the average points scored in each running order position, the trend of scoring higher in the second half holds:

And if you crunch all of the points totals for the last four years, and work out an average mark for the first half and second half – across both semifinals – you come out with:

• Countries in the first half scoring 63 points on average
• Countries in the second half scoring 71 points on average
• Therefore, you’re roughly 8 points better off being drawn in the second half

Food for thought as we go into this afternoon’s draw, especially in a year when only a handful of countries will miss out in each show the latter half bias could just be the difference.