Editorials & Opinion

Analysing the semi-final allocation draw

On Monday, the semi-final allocation draw took place. 37 countries have been divided over two semi-finals and four halves in total. The question is: Which half is the toughest? Who’s had a favourable draw? And which countries look to be in trouble, even without their songs being revealed?

Where’s the trouble?

Two countries are looking like the toughest halves out there. Both of the first halves in the semi-finals are looking like tough draws for countries to be in. One for the countries in it, one for the amount of countries in it…

Semi 1 – First half

The first half of the first semi-final is a tough one. That’s a purely statistical one, as we see ten countries in one half. It’s the only of the four halves with an extra country. If you then take into account that, in a normal scenario, only five, at most, can qualify, you’ll have a lot of eliminated countries there. Basically: Anyone in this half might be in trouble.

Basically, at least 50% of the countries in the first half of the first semi will be eliminated. Below you can see the qualification rates since 2013. Why 2013? That is the year the producers started to decide the running order, as well as being the year where voting fraud was discovered. That seems like a reasonably fair starting point.


100% (5/5)


80% (4/5)


67% (2/3)


60% (3/5)


60% (3/5)


60% (3/5)


40% (2/5)


40% (2/5)

Czech Republic

33% (1/3)


20% (1/5)

Just looking at that, two countries have a very steady qualification record: Azerbaijan and Belgium. Azerbaijan have qualified on every attempt, although their results have declined lately. Belgium, with three Walloon and one Flemish effort, have scored three consecutive top ten results. Bulgaria are also looking good. Since their return in 2016, they’ve got a 100% score on the top 4.

Praise for two unlikely ones?

Interestingly, Czech Republic are only one out of three, but they’ve picked their song already. General consensus seems to be that Mikolas Josef’s “Lie To Me” is their best ever chance at making the final, but he’ll need to defeat at least five countries of this first half. The same goes for Albania, which is receiving a lot of praise for their song “Mall”.

Iceland and Estonia

I’m pointing Iceland and Estonia out here as the ones I’m most worried for. Neither country has done really well recently. In fact, Iceland last qualified for the final in 2014, Estonia in 2015.

Both of them will really need to up their game to stand a chance of qualifying in this big half. They can’t rely on ‘decent’, they need to bring in the big guns.

Semi 2 – First half

If you’re talking about a true bloodbath, semi 2’s first half is your best bet by a couple of lightyears. Let’s take a look at the participating countries in that half. Once again, we take the statistics since 2013:


100% (4/4)


100% (4/4)


100% (2/2)

The Netherlands

80% (4/5)


80% (4/5)


50% (2/4)


50% (2/4)


40% (2/5)

San Marino

20% (1/5)

Once again, we take the impossible split into account. Never did we see more qualifiers from the first half than from the second. So, also for this semi and this half: Only five countries can qualify – at most. You’re almost tempted to say that San Marino are looking at an impossible task ahead.

Will one of those three lose their perfect qualification record? It doesn’t sound unlikely, even though we’ve all expected them to fail at some point in time. A little disclaimer needs to be added here. Denmark have appeared in three finals since 2013, but we’re only counting the times they made it out of the semi. Therefore, 2014 was not included in their stats.

If you’ve already got three countries without ever failing to qualify and two that only failed once in the last five years, you’re in for a true bloodbath. A few of these have clear challenges ahead, though.


First of all, Australia. And for this one, I would like to quote ESC Insight’s article on the draw, in which Lisa-Jayne Lewis said:

Our biggest concern over all the draw is for Australia. There are not enough years of voting patterns to be able to comfortably make a prediction here. Australia struggled in the televote last year and was kept afloat by the juries.

No matter how big the praise for Jessica Mauboy is at the moment, if she fails to click with the audience, they might be in trouble. The same also goes for The Netherlands. Yes, Waylon has previously come second in the contest and yes, they normally manage to get the staging right. But Waylon as a performer will divide people. If he doesn’t click with the audience, his country will be in trouble.


Russia may also suffer from this draw. If “Flame Is Burning” is anything to go by, Yulia Samoylova isn’t a surefire qualifier. Especially not in this half, where all the Eurovision powerhouses of the past few years have gathered.

If you then take into account that they’re missing the support of three countries who are in their top five point givers, Estonia, Belarus and Armenia, they might be in trouble. Especially if you even add to that that there may be a couple of unfriendly countries to them in the semi…

The second halves

Of course, those first halves are looking tough. In the second semi, however, the entire semi is looking tough. For the first semi, that’s a little different.

Let’s look at the stats of those semi halves below.

Semi-final 1


100% (4/4)


80% (4/5)


75% (3/4)


75% (3/4)


67% (2/3)


40% (2/5)


20% (1/5)


20% (1/5)

FYR Macedonia

0% (0/5)

Looking at this list, Armenia must be absolutely chuffed with their draw. The same should go for Greece, Cyprus and Austria. Like Denmark, Austria has only attempted to qualify four times, as they hosted once. Even those at the bottom must be hoping for something. There are chances, that’s for sure.

Semi-final 2


100% (5/5)


100% (4/4)


100% (3/3)


100% (3/3)


60% (3/5)


60% (3/5)


40% (2/5)


40% (2/5)


40% (2/5)

Interesting to look at these stats. Basically, in the second semi, we have got seven countries who have a 100% qualification record over the past five years. That, in itself, is an insane statistic. To guess that one of those seven is going to fail, isn’t all that weird.

Even worse: No country in that second half has less than 40% on their qualification record. If the first half didn’t confirm the bloodbath, this second half surely seals the deal.

Who’ve been lucky?

So far, we’ve only looked at those who are in a bit of trouble, mainly those in those tough first halves. It’s not all doom and misery that’s going on for countries. There are a few countries who’ve had the best draw they could have imagined.

Surrounded by friends

Sweden have drawn a very lucky slot here. They will get to perform in the second half of the second semi. The second semi in itself is tough, but being in the second half will definitely help the Swedes, who normally have quite a polished song and staging.

As if that wasn’t quite enough for the Swedes, they have a few friends in their semi. Norway and Denmark are both there. Those form the top two in the all-time ranking of received points for Sweden. That will make up for missing Iceland and Finland!

The Swedes have just one task. Pick a relatively decent song. That way their qualification for the final should be an easy one, looking at their 100% record.

If it’s Foureira…

It seems like Cyprus are sending Eleni Foureira. If the rumour comes true, Cyprus are in a good place as well. Not only did they draw the second half, but they also managed to get drawn with both Albania and Greece.

We all know about the eternal bond between Cyprus and Greece. That will only get stronger if Cyprus manage to send Greek star Eleni Foureira. Albania on the same hand will come in handy, as Foureira was born there. That’ll guarantee a good couple of points.

Finland’s fine luck

Finland have really managed to get the first prize in Monday’s lottery. They’re in the semi with less ‘certain qualifiers’, they’ve drawn the second half and they have the countries they want with them.

OK, yes, the first semi-final has one more country than the second. And yes, Finland are missing Sweden, Norway and Denmark. But they do have their most popular singer of the moment with Saara Aalto. And Saara Aalto is famous abroad for X Factor UK, which might pull in a couple of points (read: twelve from televoting) from the United Kingdom and perhaps Ireland as well. And they’ve got Estonia!

Add to that that Saara will probably pull off a stage show like we haven’t seen in a while and has worked with some successful songwriters and you’ve got yourself a solid package.

Let’s wait and see…

As always, the next few months will be very interesting. Some countries will need to defy the odds. With both countries looking at a statistical stronger first half, you’d need to wonder what will happen to that impossible 6/4 split we wrote about last year.

Some of these countries are looking strong, others currently aren’t. Nevertheless, a single song can change it all. One thing is for sure and that is that absolutely no one can take qualification for granted with this semi-final allocation draw. No one can rely solely on diaspora and no one can rely on a mediocre song to squeeze in.

We also highly recommend reading the ESC Insight’s take on the semi-final allocation draw, which you can read here. How’s your country looking in this semi-final allocation draw? What does our analysis tell you? Let us know!

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!

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