As most of Europe was asleep, the producers of the Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv were working their late shift to get the running order done. Ten qualifiers from each semifinal, as well as six automatic qualifiers: How to turn that into a decent running order? At about 1:30AM CET, the producers released the official running order. Time for me to take a quick look at the winners and losers of that order.
Israel to start, France to close
Israel as an opener seems quite logical. You want to open with a bang and whereas the Israeli entry might not be everyone’s taste, it is a decent starter of the show. An immediate uptempo effort, which should make viewers stick with Eurovision instead of changing the channel.
France to close was something most of us saw coming. A cute, sugary effort from the French is an ideal closer. You don’t want to end the show on a depressing note and Alma’s appearance will certainly give it a good push. The visuals should draw people in, but at the end of the night, it’s the visuals that might be missed by the viewers in Europe due to the time.
A three horse race
Looking at the bookmakers, we seem to be in for a proper three horse race. Italy, Portugal and Bulgaria are all close together now and according to many, any of the three could take the crown home.
Of the three, Italy is on first in ninth. That could be bad news for the Italians. Since the introduction of televoting, only two winners performed in the first nine entries of the show: Sertab Erener in 2003 (4th) and Dana International in 1998 (8th). All other winners have come from 10th or later. Then again, is there much difference between #9 and #10? Who knows… Coming right after Hungary won’t have much effect, but having the Danish vocal powerhouse right behind might.
PortugalPortugal seem to have received a very decent slot. Being drawn first half, something had to be done to keep Portugal as a stand out. #11 is a good slot for that. Coming right after Denmark’s Anja and before Azerbaijan’s Dihaj, this will stand out in the best possible way. In past years, only favourites have been given the #11 slot: Amir last year, who followed Guy Sebastian, Conchita Wurst and Cascada. And yes, Cascada didn’t do well at all, but they were in fact a pre-contest favourite. #11 might be the best possible slot in the first half – a slot for proper favourites to do the trick.
Bulgaria then perform as #25. At first sight, that might be a little too late in the show to keep people’s attention. Or perhaps the jury are more of an issue? What we do know is that only Marie N and Dima Bilan managed to win from one of the last two spots in the running order, both coming from one before last. It has to be added that both of those did not perform in a show with 26 entries. On the other hand, Bulgaria is the isolated favourite, as the only one in the second half of the show. Looking at what’s surrounding them, Bulgaria do not have as much chance to really stand out. All entries surrounding them are solidly in the bookmakers’ top ten: Belgium, Sweden and France.
United Kingdom and Croatia
The true winners of this order have to be the United Kingdom and Croatia. Eight of the winners since 1998 performed somewhere between song #17 and #20. In that bunch, we now have Norway, the United Kingdom, Cyprus and Romania. The United Kingdom will stand out in that group as the only real ballad. This could give them the push to exceed all current expectations.
Croatia then was a surprise to many last night. The fact that Jacques Houdek qualified already shocked many, disgusted some, but apparently also pleased a good few people and a crowd of juries. Croatia is on the rise with bookmakers, now being in eighth and shortening across the board. Drawing first half wasn’t going to help it, until the producers put Jacques on as #13, the latest slot possible. In itself, #13 is not a special number, until you look at the last four occupants of the slot: Anouk, Sanna Nielsen, Loïc Nottet and Dami Im – all of which made the top ten and with the exception of Anouk, all of them even made the top four. Croatia is not the most popular of entries, but with this draw and the current reaction, Croatia are going to do better than expected. It is however still far from being a winner.
Denmark and Sweden
I personally feel the Scandinavian qualifiers of Denmark and Sweden might be the biggest losers in this running order. Denmark is the song separating the two big hitters, Portugal and Italy. Attention for Italy will shift to attention for Portugal and one could fear that Denmark in the middle will be forgotten. Denmark have dropped out of the top ten and chart performance is almost non-existing. This could be one tough final for Denmark.
More controversially, I feel Sweden are missing out here as well. I really doubt EBU would put three actual favourites in a row this late in the show. Gut feelings say one of them underperformed in its semi and is no longer a likely candidate for victory or even top three. Belgium and Bulgaria both stand out in different ways for current, relevant pop tracks. Sweden inbetween these two will not look nearly as good as it could with other songs surrounding it. From a totally subjective point of view, I feel this running order will expose Sweden as quite a mediocre pop effort. Coming right before a possible winner will not help Robin. If we weren’t sure already, I think it is now quite certain that we won’t be going back to Sweden for 2018.
The death slots
No one has ever won from #2 or #16. One could definitely call those cursed slots or even death slots. Common belief says being in either of those two slots, you’re out of contention for victory and possibly worse. Do we have a favourite being killed off in that slots now? No, not quite. Poland have been given the #2 slot. A surprising qualifier to many, Poland will have to do their utmost to come even remotely close to last year’s result. On the other hand, Spain in #16 is no help to them either. A potential last place is on the cards for Manel.
The running order in short
Portugal now seem to be in a better place than ever before. The fear of not getting enough televote support seem to have been taken away by the chart performance and, in my eyes, they were given the best slot possible, over Italy. Sweden don’t seem to be in a good place at all, but Croatia really are. It is quite good to see that EBU have not consciously tried to really kill a favourite’s chances. The contest is wide open, but it is hard to deny that momentum is drifting away from Italy. Bulgaria and Portugal are coming closer. Will the upset be on the cards? Will we get a country that’s never won before taking the crown?