Editorials & Opinion

How the myth of the impossible 6/4 split cost Finland the final

Outrage after the first semifinal of the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. One of the fans’ favourites, Finland, failed to qualify for the Grand Final on Saturday. Many fans ask themselves how this could possibly have happened. In this editorial piece, I’d like to draw your attention to a new myth, which is now starting to gain interest after one of the most prolific victims ever. I’m talking about the myth of the impossible 6/4 split.

The 6/4 split

What even is the myth of the impossible 6/4 split? So far, in the history of the contest, it has never happened that more songs qualified from the first half of a semifinal than from the second half. At most we’ve had a 5/5 split, just like last night. It seems to be rather impossible to have six qualifiers from the opening half of the show making it on own merit.

Anna Bergendahl – One of the most famous victims of the myth (Zimbio)
On own merit? Yes. The first and possibly most prolific victim of this myth could have happened in 2008: Charlotte Perrelli’s Hero finished in twelfth in her semifinal, meaning she wouldn’t qualify. A rule from that year however suggested juries could actually save their highest non-qualifier, meaning they still put Sweden through to the final. Two years later, in 2010, Sweden still became one of the clearest and first victims of the myth when Anna Bergendahl finished in eleventh from the first half, with Armenia, Israel, Denmark, Ukraine and Azerbaijan qualifying from the same half. Another example could perhaps be Valentina Monetta, as her Crisalide (Vola) finished in eleventh as well after performing second.

Norma John missing out

Norma John during Tuesday’s show (YLE)
If we now look back at last night, we see that we do indeed have five qualifiers from that first half. Sweden, Belgium, Australia, Azerbaijan and Portugal have made it, as you all know. All of those five have something that made them a more likely qualifier than Finland.
The main talking point here is Belgium. Blanche’s odds collapsed after her first rehearsal and she was the most likely non-qualifier from a group of six decent entries for a while. But if we now look at the European charts, City Lights is the best scoring entry of all competing entries so far. Add to that that she probably had her best performance during the jury rehearsal and you have a very likely qualifier indeed.
My personal thought went to Australia missing out. Isaiah had some vocal mishaps last night and that could well have cost him some televoting points. But once again, he had a much better showing with the juries. It’s sad for Finland and Norma John. They sent a decent entry with a better chance of qualification than in the past two years and yet fail to make it through. In my eyes, merely due to drawing a ballot that said ‘1st Half’.
A bold statement perhaps, but I feel that had Cyprus, Poland or Greece been in Finland’s place, they would equally have missed out. The five qualifiers were pretty solid. It’s just that this myth seems to have gained less of a following than the eternal curse of performing second in the Grand Final.

Is this a one time thing for 2017?

No, it definitely is not. Just take a really quick look at the first half of Thursday’s show and you’ll see we’ll get another surprise. We now have, in my eyes, seven potential qualifiers in that half: Serbia, Austria, FYR Macedonia, Romania, The Netherlands, Hungary and Denmark. Unless we break the myth, two of them should normally fail to qualify. I dare to say Serbia is likely to be one of them. But the other one is one big mystery. I don’t dare to give guarantees for most of them, except possibly Romania.
It is fair to say that I am a solid believer of the myth of the impossible 6/4 split. Being drawn in the first half is no issue, as long as the competition there is not as strong as it was this year for Norma John. I’m curious, yet terrified, to see who the victim will be on Thursday. Or will we break the curse and bust the myth? I doubt it.
Let’s look back on Finland’s effort last night below. Let us know what you think about this article on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below!

Nick van Lith

I'm one of the founding members of ESCXTRA.com. Eleven years after the start, I'm proud to say that I am now the Editor-in-Chief of this wonderful website. When I'm not doing Eurovision stuff, you should be able to find me teaching German to kids... And cheering on everything and everyone Greek, pretty much. Pame Ellada!

Comments on How the myth of the impossible 6/4 split cost Finland the final

  • Ben Cook

    Don’t think you should be so quick to rule out Malta as a qualifier either

  • Stephen

    That is an interesting theory, but I think the ad break hurt Finland more than what half it was in. Not only do you get people missing parts of the song because they didn’t get back from the bathroom in time for the show restarting, but when the show is chopped up into three sections, having a boundary half way through the middle section feels a little bit arbitrary when the viewers don’t have a clear separation of when the halfway point is?
    I don’t have any stats from previous semi finals to back this up from older contests, but did notice that last night, we got an even proportion of songs from each section. For example the first block had 3 qualifiers from 6 songs, the second had 4 from 7, the last had 3 from 5. I’ll be really curious to see if the same holds true tomorrow, and get some hint if this is coincidence, or a deliberate part of the producer running order stacking?

  • Fatima

    None of this is good for the contest, because viewers and fans keep seeing unjust eliminations. Luke Fisher made a good point on the podcast, which was that the result is half based on something we haven’t seen. That is the jury final. Had most viewers known that AUS & BEL (but particularly AUS) had cleaner jury performances, then they wouldn’t be wondering how a song with such an excruciatingly bum note could have advanced. The juries should be voting on the performances we all see. It can’t be too hard to do that, can it?

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