Editorials & Opinion

Crunching the numbers of the semifinal draw

Come Together has been revealed as the slogan for the Eurovision Song Contest 2016. At the same time, SVT hosted the allocation draw where 18 countries came together in semifinal one and nineteen in semifinal two. We had a look at this draw: What does this draw actually tell us?
We have just five songs up until now, so all of this analysis is based on numbers. What sounds likely and what doesn’t?
First of all, there are some general trends we see. There has never been a majority of qualifiers from the countries drawn in the first half. The most common split is four qualifiers from the first half versus six from the second. Each half getting five has also happened, but never have six or more countries from the first half qualified. That means that no matter the outcome of the calculations we’ve done below, a prediction based on numbers will always contain less countries from the first half.
The second observation is that the usual voting pairs, like we spoke about last year have mostly been split, but that the pots still don’t do the work they’re supposed to do. As a Dutchman, my eye immediately falls on Pot 4 from today: The Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Australia, Greece and Cyprus. We can all define the logic there: Both Greece and Cyprus and The Netherlands and Belgium are known as voting pairs. Bulgaria are known for not having too many friends in the contest and Australia is too new to judge. The ideal split would’ve been Belgium, Greece and Bulgaria versus The Netherlands, Cyprus and Australia. Why? I think we all expect Greece and Australia to qualify and between the other two in such groups, there’s a lot that could happen. You’d at least separate the pairs from each other. Some known pairs have been drawn together now, such as Greece and Cyprus.

Semifinal 1

Eighteen countries will be battling for ten tickets to the final in this semi. Let’s first take a look at the first half. Behind the names of the countries, there’s the percentage of qualification success. Finland has qualified on five out of eight attempts, so that makes 62,5%. We’ve taken the numbers since the introduction of the two semifinal system.
The first half:

  • Russia: 100%
  • Greece: 100%
  • Armenia: 85,7%
  • Hungary; 71,4%
  • Finland: 62,5%
  • Moldova: 62,5%
  • Croatia: 33,3%
  • Netherlands: 25%
  • San Marino: 16,7%

Now, let’s look at a closer detail. Russia and Greece are eternal qualfiers and unless they do really weird things, we should expect to see them on Saturday too. Especially Russia as I can’t see Sergey Lazarev failing to qualify. Then it’s Armenia, who only failed to qualify with Emmy’s Boom Boom. That sounds like three solid qualifiers, but then it gets tricky.
Hungary would be the logical pick with Finland as a possible fifth if the second half is rubbish. Moldova, Croatia, San Marino and the Netherlands aren’t looking good. Until we take some new statistics into the mix. What if we look at the form these countries have showed in the past three attempts (so for Croatia, that’s 2011, 2012 and 2013)? It would look like this:

  • Hungary: 100%
  • The Netherlands: 66,7%
  • Finland: 66,7%
  • San Marino: 33,3%
  • Moldova: 33,3%
  • Croatia: 0%

So Hungary, since the introduction of A Dal, have always qualified. Their only two non-qualifications come from the pre-Kati Wolf era. That should be our fourth pick based on numbers. Now it gets tricky: The Netherlands and Finland have both managed to get some fans behind either their artist (Douwe Bob) or their national final (UMK) this year, but it just sounds too unlikely that both of them will qualify. If we’re heading for 5 from this half, then it’s these two that could do something, if all countries stick to the form they’ve been in lately.
On to the second half, where we see the following success rates:

  • Azerbaijan: 100%
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina: 100%
  • Iceland: 87,5%
  • Estonia: 62,5%
  • Austria: 50%
  • Malta: 50%
  • Cyprus: 42,9%
  • Montenegro: 33,3%
  • Czech Republic: 0%

We see another two eternal qualifiers here with both Azerbaijan and Bosnia&Herzegovina. We don’t know how Bosnia’s limited budget is going to affect their entry, but in a normal situation, they’re qualifying. Especially as we’re looking at six qualifiers from these nine, there’s a lot of room for things to happen. Iceland, despite Maria Olafs off key non-qualification, has always been a steady factor, so I’m putting them as qualifier #3. That’s where it gets interesting though. Malta and Austria are hit and miss, Estonia is more often a hit. Estonia qualifying wouldn’t be surprising (also judging on the Eesti Laul quality this year), so that’s #4.
Then, Malta and Austria are 50/50, Cyprus and Montenegro fall behind and the Czechs are just looking like a sad case at the moment. If we now take the form of the last three years into consideration for these five, you’d get:

  • Montenegro: 66,7%
  • Malta: 66,7%
  • Cyprus: 66,7%
  • Austria: 33,3%
  • Czech Republic: 0%

Admitted, Austria’s only qualification immediately brought them a victory, but otherwise, it’s not looking good for them. Montenegro stepping away from the genre that brought them their only two qualifications isn’t the best move either and Cyprus with a rock group is far from sure as well. The only country in this bunch that I’d dare to put down as a relatively secure #5 is Malta.
To summarise this semi: If nothing odd happens, Russia, Greece, Armenia, Bosnia&Herzegovina, Azerbaijan and Hungary are all qualifying. They should normally be followed by Estonia, Iceland and Malta. That way we now have four qualifiers from the first half and five from the second. That leaves room for one more country and that could be anyone. Judging on the statistics though, you’d be looking at Finland.

Semifinal 2

A lot of numbers have already been flying around – and that was only semifinal one. Semifinal 2 will have nineteen countries, also battling for ten tickets. Looking at the qualification successes of the first half, where we should expect either four or five qualifiers:

  • Serbia: 66,7%
  • Lithuania: 62,5%
  • Ireland: 50%
  • Poland: 50%
  • Israel: 50%
  • Belarus: 37,5%
  • Latvia: 25%
  • Switzerland: 25%
  • FYR Macedonia: 12,5%
  • Australia: N/A

And there we have our first question. We effectively have a semifinal début here with Australia in a half of a semifinal that’s not that incredibly strong. We’ll have to see at the end of this semi to see how big their chances would actually be.
Two countries stand out quite a bit over the rest of this half and that’s Serbia and Lithuania. The guess would be that they could qualify. Then there’s Ireland, Poland, Israel, Belarus, Latvia, FYR Macedonia and Switzerland. All of them have had a good amount of failures as well as successes – except for FYR Macedonia. Looking at how often they’ve qualified on their last three attempts:

  • Poland: 66,7%
  • Belarus: 66,7%
  • Ireland: 33,3%
  • Israel: 33,3%
  • Latvia: 33,3%
  • Switzerland: 33,3%
  • FYR Macedonia: 0%

What does that tell us? Absolutely nothing. Three of the countries down that list, Ireland, Israel and Latvia, have all changed their selection format. Israel and Latvia did so last year and immediately qualified, Ireland is doing it this year and that could mean anything for their chances. The only thing you could say is that Poland, since returning 2014, has shown that they can handle Eurovision well and that would possibly make them the third qualifier. Belarus is second on the list, but we know their song… FYR Macedonia is looking sad with no successes in three years time and just one in all of their eight attempts. What we cannot forget, though, is that that one qualification is credited to the same woman they’re sending to Stockholm: Kaliopi.
On to the second half then. We have Serbia, Lithuania and Poland as qualifying guesses, with Australia, Ireland, Latvia and Israel following in their foodsteps in case any of them manage to make a mistake. The second half has some of those eternal qualifiers, as we can see below:

  • Romania: 100%
  • Ukraine: 100%
  • Norway: 85,7%
  • Denmark: 85,7%
  • Georgia: 71%
  • Albania: 62,5%
  • Slovenia: 37,5%
  • Belgium: 37,5%
  • Bulgaria: 0%

Right then, two eternal qualifiers and two countries that have managed to crash out just once: Romania and Ukraine, followed by Norway and Denmark. Logic would tell us that these four are a rather safe bet to see qualifying for the Grand Final. So then there’s Georgia, Albania, Slovenia and Belgium behind that. Bulgaria on zero out of six is just not looking like a good bet at all…

  • Slovenia: 66,7%
  • Georgia: 66,7%
  • Belgium: 66,7%
  • Albania: 33,3%

Slovenia’s track record since 2008 hasn’t been amazing, but they’ve made the last two finals. They’re joining my list of ‘statistical qualifiers’ here. I’m reluctant to put Georgia on the list looking at the band they’ve selected, but the same goes for Belgium and Albania. Belgium, it has to be said, has a good last three year record, but that’s two RTBF qualifications. The one failure was a VRT one. If you’d take just the last three VRT participations, you’d end up on 33,3%: Tom Dice qualified in 2010, Iris and Axel Hirsoux in 2012 and 2014 did not.
To summarise, we’re looking at Romania, Ukraine, Norway, Denmark and Serbia as the five frontrunners. They’re followed by Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia. The last two spots are wide, wide open. I’m however quite confident that with two spots wide open, one of them will be filled by Australia. They said they want to go bigger than last year, so that’s a good bet, I think. FYR Macedonia have selected the only singer to have brought them success, Belgium’s VRT will be hoping to turn the tide and the same goes for Albania. Ireland, Latvia and Israel will be hoping their selection changes are going to help them, so this could go anywhere. Literally, anywhere. With the knowledge we have at the moment, my bet would be either Ireland or FYR Macedonia. The statistics would then point towards Ireland to fill the last qualification slot.

What do you think?

We obviously don’t have too many songs just yet, so this is all based on the past and the numbers, with some choices taking a look at the 2016 selections (like for Ireland and Georgia). In general, you could say that the second semifinal is a lot more open than the first. Just seeing that a qualification record of 66,7% is enough to make you the big shot of the first half of the second semifinal (Serbia), shows that anything could happen there depending on the songs we’re going to get.
But we’re curious to see what you think! How do you see the chances for your country? Do you think we’ve missed a few points here and there? Let us know!

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