Analysis of the draw for 2014 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals. What countries does Ireland want to be drawn with or avoid?

Adrian Kavanagh, 16th January 2013

The draw for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals takes place on Monday 20th January in Copenhagen. 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. 37 countries will be taking part in the two semi finals (down on the numbers taking part in last year’s semi final, with Serbia, Croatia, Cyprus and Bulgaria not taking part this year while Turkey, Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are not making a return to the contest after missing out last year’s contest. However, Portugal and Poland are returning to the contest; Portugal missed last year’s contest while Poland has been absent for the last two years.  Slovenia, after some deliberations, will be participating this year.

Due to their proximity to Copenhagen and an effort on the organisers’ part to manage ticketing levels for the two semi finals, two of Denmark’s neighbours – Sweden and Norway – have been assigned to different semi finals and the draw for these has already been decided with Sweden being assigned to Semi Final 1 and Norway to Semi Final 2. Both Sweden and Norway are relatively friendly Eurovision nations from an Irish perspective, so the preference here would be down to what type of song/act we enter: Norwegian voters have shown an especial penchant for Irish ballads while the Swedes are more open to more uptempo Irish entries. The key factor here is down to the fact that Israel has already also been preassigned to Semi Final 2 also for the same reason as in 2013: May 6th 2014 is Israel’s Independence Day, just as May 14th 2013 was in 2013. This may be a reason to favour Semi Final 1 given that the number of points won from Israel by Irish acts tends to be lower than average (though not to the same degree as in the pre-1998 jury voting era in which Ireland’s lowest points, on average, from any of the participating states tended to come from Israel). If Ireland does 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 in recent years. Dream (sort of…): Sweden – Semi Final 1. Nightmare (sort of…): Norway and Israel – Semi Final 2.  

The remaining 28 contestants in both semi finals will be drawn from a series of six different pots. As opposed to last year when this involved a straightforward case of each pot having six countries in it, the numbers of countries in these different pots vary between four and five. In addition, one of the pots (Pot 1)  had been set up on the basis that it might, or might not, include Slovenia (which it now will). The countries in each of the different pot will generally be countries that have exhibited a strong Eurovision voting relationship between each other over recent contests, although the strength of the relationships between the countries in some of the pots is not as strong as that in others. This is a recognition of the existence of voting blocs within Eurovision, especially following 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 due to being able to rely on a strong pre-existing support base due to “friends and neighbours voting” and/or “diaspora voting”, as discussed in previous Eurovision posts on this site.

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, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro,  Switzerland Slovenia: Albania and FYR Macedonia have mixed results in terms of qualification, while the Swiss and Slovenes have both only qualified from the semi final on two occasions from ten/eleven attempts. 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). Out of the other countries, Albania or Slovenia would be the next preferred options on that same basis, while Montengro and FYR Macedonia would be the countries to avoid. But with the exceptions of the Swiss, Ireland would usually not get too many points from countries in this pot, so ideally the Irish only probably want to be paired with two countries from this particular pot. But then again it would be better to be paired with Slovenia as a third country from this pot than it would be to end up with three countries, and not two, from the Post-Soviet pot instead! Dream: Switzerland, Albania and Slovenia. Nightmare: FYR Macedonia, Montenegro 

Pot 2: The Baltic Bloc pot: Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania: The fortunes of all the countries in this pot in terms of semi final qualifications have been relatively similar over the past ten years, with these countries reaching some of the finals and missing out on others. In the early 2000s, Lithuania would have been the least successful of the countries in this pot, but in more recent contests the Lithuanians have probably been the most consistent qualifiers out of the countries within this group. In terms of voting patterns, some of Ireland’s biggest Eurovision friends fall in this pot (not surprising given that Ireland was included as part of this pot at last year’s draw). 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 2014 contest. To be honest, we could expect a few Eurovision points in most cases from any of the countries in this pot, effectively what we want to see here is Ireland getting drawn with three of the countries from this particular pot! Dream: Latvia, Lithuania, Finland. Nightmare:  Estonia, Iceland (the real nightmare here would be to get drawn with only two of these countries)

Pot 3: The post-Soviet Bloc pot: 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 and also usually tend to be among the main contenders for the overall victory.  Georgia has 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. Nightmare: Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia. (Georgia has yet to award Ireland any Eurovision points.) But as few points would be expected for an Irish act from any of these countries in any course, on the basis of wanting to avoid being in competition with some of the contest’s “big-hitters” then the real dream and nightmare draws here would be: Dream: Belarus, Georgia. Nightmare: Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Russia. (As opposed to the previous pot, the real nightmare would be to get three big-hitters from the post-Soviet bloc drawn in Ireland’s semi-final.)

Pot 4:  The Armenian/Greek Diaspora pot (and Ireland!): Armenia, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, The Netherlands: The last three pots have a lot less coherence to them than the previous three but this pot is probably defined in terms of countries showing strong support traditionally towards Greece and Armenia based around support from these countries’ diaspora. The inclusion of Ireland in this pot seems bizarre and is probably just on the basis of this being a case of making up the numbers in this pot. From a competitive perspective, Armenia and especially Greece are the countries to avoid here. The Greek act has qualified from each semi final competed in since 2004  and Greece is of the strongest competitors in Eurovision. Armenia has qualified out of every Eurovision semi-final that it has competed in with the exception of the 2011 contest and the Armenian act generally does fairly well in Eurovision contests. By contrast, the Belgians and Dutch (with the exception of a good contest for both of these in 2013) have qualified for the final on few occasions. This pot is very interesting as there is also a big difference in terms of voting propensity for Irish act between the two dream draws (Belgium and the Netherlands) and the the two nightmare draws (Greece and Armenia). It really matters here in terms of which two countries we get from this pot.  Dream: Belgium, Netherlands. Nightmare: Armenia, Greece. 

Pot 5:  The Central European pot: Austria, Hungary, Poland, San Marino: While there is a slight 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.  None of the countries in this particular pot have exceptionally strong Eurovision records in recent years (the Hungarians probably having the stronger record) and of course San Marino has yet to qualify for a Eurovision final.  From the point of view of average points awarded to Irish entries over the past fifteen years, the dream draw would be Hungary and San Marino, while the nightmare draw would be Poland and Austria. But this is a pot from which an Irish act would be hoping to win a few points (but not very many points) from, irrespective of which countries are drawn out of this in Ireland’s semi final. Dream: Hungary, San Marino. Nightmare: Poland, Austria.  

Pot 6:  The Romanian diaspora (and Malta) pot: Romania, Moldova, Portugal, Malta: The common theme uniting these countries is the tendency for the Romanians and Moldovans to award each other’s acts high points (on the basis of geographical and cultural closeness) and the tendency for Portugal to award these countries high points also due to a Romanian diaspora vote. Malta seems to have been included here simply on the basis of (i) also being located in southern Europe, (ii) there being no other pot to put Malta in, as in the case of Ireland. In terms of competition levels, Romania is the country to avoid here given that the Romanian act 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 of 2008) might also be worth avoiding.  Portugal and Malta’s record would not be as strong, in comparison, though Mate did finish in the Top 10 in last year’s final. From the point of view of average points awarded to Irish entries over the past fifteen years, the dream draw would definitely be Malta and the returning Portugal, while the nightmare draw would be Romania and Moldova (although Romania would not be as bad a draw as Moldova would be in this regard).  As with Pot 4,  it really does seem to matter here in terms of which two countries we get from this pot. Dream: Malta, Portugal. Nightmare: Romania, Moldova.  

The Big 5/Host countries: France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Denmark: 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. The hosts, Denmark, would also be a very good country to get drawn to vote in our semi final (the Danes rank second behind the United Kingdom in terms of levels of support for Irish acts at Eurovision in recent years. As for the third Big 5/Host country we would like to see voting in Ireland’s semi final,  Germany would be slightly favoured over Spain in this regard. However, Germany has already been assigned to vote in Semi Final 2 and getting Spain instead of Germany here might not be the worst result given if it meant that Ireland would be Semi Final 1 with Sweden and not in Semi Final 2 with Israel (and Norway). We definitely do not want to get France (a country with a very low points average in terms of support for Irish acts) and Italy (a country that has still yet to award any points to any Irish act since it returned to Eurovision in 2011). Dream: United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain (if we get drawn in Semi Final 1 – otherwise swap Germany for Spain if we get drawn in Semi Final 2). Nightmare: France, Italy, Spain or Germany.  

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 as in 2013) 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, Denmark, 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. Being drawn to perform last (26th position) in a very long Eurovision Final does not always help an act’s prospects, as Ireland found to its cost last year!)

To recap, the dream draw for Ireland would be to be drawn in the latter half of  Semi Final 1 (15 contestants) with Sweden, Switzerland, Albania, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Belarus, Georgia, Belgium, Netherlands, Hungary, San Marino, Malta and Portugal, with the United Kingdom, Denmark and Spain voting in this semi final.

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One Response to “Analysis of the draw for 2014 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals. What countries does Ireland want to be drawn with or avoid?”

  1. A quick review of Ireland’s Eurovision Song Contest semi final draw | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] Blog posts from Adrian Kavanagh on the Eurovision Song Contest, sports and other entities! « Analysis of the draw for 2014 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals. What countries does Ireland want … […]

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