Analysis of the draw for 2013 Eurovision semi finals. What countries does Ireland want to be drawn with or avoid?

Adrian Kavanagh, 16th January 2013

The draw for the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals takes place tomorrow in Malmo in Sweden. After this draw, Ireland will know what semi final its act will be taking part in, the countries that will be competing against this act for one of the ten qualifier slots from this semi final and (pretty importantly!) the three Big 5/Host countries that will have the right to vote in this semi final. This post will assess the possibilities facing Ireland ahead of this draw and pinpoint what would be an ideal/nightmare draw for the Irish act. 

First of all, to note the format for this semi final draw. 33 countries will be taking part in the two semi finals (down on the numbers taking part in last year’s semi final, with Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal and Slovakia not taking part this year although Armenia is returning).

Due to their proximity to Malmo and an effort on the organisers’ part to manage ticketing levels for the two semi finals, two of Sweden’s neighbours – Denmark and Norway – have been assigned to different semi finals and the draw for these has already been decided with Denmark being assigned to Semi Final 1 and Norway to Semi Final 2. While Norway is a relatively friendly Eurovision nation from an Irish perspective and Norwegian voters have shown an especial penchant for Irish ballads,  the preference here would be to be in the same semi final as Denmark, given that this country ranks just behind the United Kingdom in terms of the level of points awarded to Irish acts since the late 1990s and the commencement of the televoting era. Israel has already been preassigned to Semi Final 2 also (May 14th is Israel’s Independence Day – another reason to favour Semi Final 1 as this means Ireland would be in the smaller of the two semi finals (16 contestants in Semi Final 1, as opposed to 17 in the second semi final). If we do end up in Semi Final 2, it may give a lot of credence towards the choice of a ballad style entry as this is the type of Irish entry that has tended to draw most votes from both Israel and Norway. Dream: Denmark – Semi Final 1. Nightmare: Norway and Israel – Semi Final 2.  

The remaining 15 contestants in both semi finals will be drawn from a series of five different pots. Each pot will have six countries in it, with the countries in each pot generally having exhibited a strong Eurovision voting relationship between each other over recent contests. This is a recognition of the existence of voting blocs within Eurovision and especially with the introduction of televoting in 1998 and the semi final system in 2004. The pots system is an attempt to “break up these voting blocs” somewhat and limit the potential of some countries qualifying for each final by default and due to being able to rely on a strong preexisting support base due to “friends and neighbours voting” and/or “diaspora voting”, as discussed in previous posts on this site.

Figure 1: Pots to be used in the 2013 Eurovision semi final draw

Figure 1: Pots to be used in the 2013 Eurovision semi final draw

Note that the pot names listed here are not official ones – these are names assigned by me.

Pot 1: The Balkan/post-Yugoslav Bloc pot – Albania, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Switzerland: The country Ireland might wish to avoid on a competition level here would be Serbia – a country that has qualified from nearly every semi final it has competed in (with the exception of 2009 where the “curse of last year’s host” kicked in!).  Croatia, Albania and FYR Macedonia have mixed results in terms of qualification, while the Swiss have only qualified from the semi final on two occasions in nine attempts and Montenegro has yet to qualify from a semi final. In terms of past support for Irish entries, the country we really want to draw here is Switzerland (ranked eight in terms of “friendly Eurovision” countries for Ireland), while it would be good to also get Croatia and Albania  in this draw. Dream: Switzerland, Croatia, Albania. Nightmare: FYR Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro. 

Pot 2: The Baltic Bloc pot: Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania: While Ireland would have been the undoubted kingpins amongst this group in the period up to the late 1990s, the fortunes of all the countries in this pot in terms of semi final qualifications have been relatively similar over the past nine years. In terms of voting patterns, some of Ireland’s biggest Eurovision friends fall in this pot, not surprisingly, but Latvia and Lithuania would be the most friendly of these while Iceland would be the least friendly of the countries in this group but even Iceland would be ranked fifteenth in terms of the “friendly Eurovision” countries for Ireland competing in the 2013 contest. To be honest, we could expect a few Eurovision points in most cases from any of the countries in this pot, so the bad news is that Ireland can only get two countries from this pot! Dream: Latvia, Lithuania. Nightmare: Finland, Estonia, Iceland. 

Pot 3: The post-Soviet Bloc pot: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine: Ireland would not expect to win too many votes from the countries found in this pot and most of these ranked towards the bottom of the list when it comes to countries that award Ireland Eurovision points on a regular basis. To make matters worse, some of the contest’s big hitters fall in this pot with these countries in this pot accounting for three Eurovision wins since 2004 and Russia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine have qualified from every semi final they have competed in while Armenia and Georgia have missed out on qualification on just one occasion. Belarus is decidedly the least successful country in this pot, but their entry this year is quite catchy…  From the point of view of average points awarded to Irish entries over the past fifteen years, the dream and nightmare draws would be as follows: Dream: Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia. Nightmare: Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia. (Georgia has yet to award Ireland any Eurovision points.)

Pot 4:  The Diaspora pot: Bulgaria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, The Netherlands: The last two pots probably have less coherence to them than the previous three but this pot is probably defined in terms of strong support traditionally towards Greece (and also Turkey/Armenia in the cases of some of these countries) based around support from these countries’ diaspora. From a competitive perspective, Greece is the country to avoid here as the Greek act has qualified from each semi final competed in since 2004  and given that its record over the past decade has established Greece as of the strongest competitors in Eurovision. This pot is very interesting as there is a big difference in terms of voting propensity for Irish act between the three dream draws and the three nightmare draws – it really matters here in terms of the three countries we get from this pot.  Dream: Malta, Belgium, Netherlands. Nightmare: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece. 

Pot 5:  The Central European/Residual pot: Austria, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia: While there is a degree of geographical coherence to the membership of this pot, in terms of past voting patterns this pot seems to be defined in terms of countries that missed out on other pots due to there already being six countries in these pots already (e.g. Slovenia (probably should be in post-Yugoslav pot) and Moldova (probably should be in post-Soviet pot)). In terms of competition levels, Romania might be a country to avoid given that it has qualified from every semi final competed in to date – in a similar vein, Moldova (qualified from every semi final apart from the Dustin/”singing to a teddy bear” semi final) might also be worth avoiding.  From the point of view of average points awarded to Irish entries over the past fifteen years, the dream draw would be Hungary, San Marino and Romania, while the nightmare draw would be Austria, Slovenia and Moldova. But given the closeness here between Romania and Austria in terms of average points awarded to Ireland and given Romania’s success levels in semi finals almost deeming this country as being close to a certain qualifier, in this case it makes sense to swap Romania and Austria. Dream: Hungary, San Marino, Austria. Nightmare: Romania, Slovenia, Moldova.  

The Big 5/Host countries: France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom/Sweden: The nitty gritty and tension of semi final qualification is not for these countries, but they do get to vote on one of the semi finals and will be assigned as such in tomorrow’s draw. Ireland definitely wants to see the United Kingdom voting for its semi final given that our nearest neighbour is also closest to us in terms of Eurovision support and easily the top ranked country in terms of average points awarded to Irish acts over the past decade and a half. Sweden would also be a good country to get drawn to vote in our semi final, with Germany being slightly favoured over Spain in this regard. We definitely do not want to get France (very low points average in terms of votes for Irish acts) and Italy (has yet to award any points to an Irish act since returning to Eurovision in 2011). Dream: United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany. Nightmare: Spain, France, Italy.  

Draw Position: The draw tomorrow will also decide what half of the semi final final each country will be performing in, but it will not be assigning actual draw positions. Based on my earlier analyses being drawn to perform in the second half of a semi final would be desirable for Ireland and indeed any of the other Eurovision contestants. Rather controversially, this year it has been decided that the draw positions for countries taking part in the Eurovision semi finals and final will be decided by the show producers and not by a draw, as has been the case in previous Eurovision Song Contests. Only the starting position of the host country, Sweden, in the Final will be decided by a draw (for obvious reasons). In which case, can we glean which countries Sweden loves/hates the most when we see which countries they assign the much desired No.16/17 semi final draw position and No.25* Final draw position/the very dreaded No. 2 draw position to? (* No, I’m not mistaking the numbers in the Final – while my analysis suggests being drawn last to perform in a semi final is statistically the best draw position to get, it suggests that the best draw position in a Final in statistical terms is to be drawn to perform in the second last position.)

To recap, the dream draw for Ireland would be to be drawn in the latter half of  Semi Final 1 (16 contestants) with Denmark, Switzerland, Croatia, Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Russia, Armenia, Malta, Belgium, Netherlands, Hungary, San Marino and Austria, with the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany voting in this semi final.

The nightmare draw for Ireland would be to be drawn in the first half of Semi Final 2 (17 contestants) with Norway, Israel, FYR Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Ukraine, Belarus*, Georgia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovenia and Moldova, with Spain, France and Italy voting in this semi final.

* On mature collection, given that the average votes awarded to Irish acts by Armenia or Russia on the one hand and Belarus on the other hand are not that much different (all quite low) and given Russia and Armenia’s strong success levels in terms of Eurovision semi final qualification over the past decade, the dream draw could well work out better if Belarus was included instead of Russia or Armenia.

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One Response to “Analysis of the draw for 2013 Eurovision semi finals. What countries does Ireland want to be drawn with or avoid?”

  1. Carlsberg don’t do Eurovision draws but if they did… « Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] Blog posts from Adrian Kavanagh on elections, sports, Eurovision and other entities! « Analysis of the draw for 2013 Eurovision semi finals. What countries does Ireland want to be drawn w… […]

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