Eurovision Top Tip Update: The Big Hitters – How Low Can They Go?

After punters briefly backed Greece into Eurovision favouritism earlier this week, I asked “can they win?” The answer has been a resounding “no”. You can now back them at 60 on Betfair, more than ten times the lowest price they traded at. That’s a remarkable vote of no confidence.

In a comment to the last post, Sofabet reader Vicky explained why the lyrics of Lukas Yiorkas’s song appealed to the Greek public. But outside of Greece, so unimpressed has the reaction been that the question now is: “Just how badly could Greece conceivably do?”

For punters like myself, who take a stronger interest in the “top ten finish” and “semi-final qualification” markets than the outright win market, it’s a question worth pondering not only for Greece but for the other Eurovision big hitters – that is, the countries which have a head start due to the size of their diasporas and the number of friendly neighbours.

In addition to Greece, I would say these are Turkey, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan and Serbia. If they were to pick the worst possible song, what’s the lowest these countries could finish?

Let’s start with Greece. The last time they finished out of the Top 10 was 2003. But this is prehistory in Eurovision terms, because the expansion of the contest since then has given so much more weight to friendly voting. Their lowest result in the modern era was ninth in 2006.

The reintroduction of the jury system over the last two years has tried to combat the effects of friendly voting. But even though the juries in the last two finals gave Greece only about two-thirds of their televote totals, they have still managed seventh and eighth.

Turkey fell out of the Top 10 in 2005 and 2006 (13th and 11th) with songs none but their natural supporters went for. However, that was before their neighbours in the Caucasus started participating – including Azerbaijan, with whom they swap seemingly guaranteed 12s.

Since then, seventh in 2008 is their lowest position. As with Greece, a reduced jury vote compared to televote hasn’t endangered their Top 10 position in the last two years.

Armenia started taking part in 2006, and the fact that they achieved two eighth places with their first two nondescript entries told its own story about the predictability of friendly voting.

The switch to 50% jury voting almost knocked them out of the Top 10 in 2009 with the very ethnic and not very universal ‘Jan Jan’. But not quite. Despite only managing only 15th place with the juries, their 9th place in the televote put them in an overall tenth place.

Azerbaijan also has never finished out of the Top 10, their debut eighth (how very Armenian of them) with the crazy ‘Day After Day’ in 2008 being their lowest position yet.

But none of these countries has really tested the “how low can you go” question as much as Russia or Serbia.

After finising 11th in 2009 (17th with juries and 8th in the televote), Russia seemingly set out to see how badly they could do in 2010 by sending the aptly-named ‘Lost and Forgotten’. The answer? They were 11th again, this time with 90 overall points instead of 91.

Serbia’s 2010 entry tested the power of the juries, who absolutely loathed it, placing it 21st. A tenth place in the televote, however, lifted it up to 13th overall.

On the evidence so far, then, it seems that even with the most underwhelming entries the Eurovision big-hitters are likely to be knocking on the door of the top ten in the final. If, that is, they can get out of the semi-final – something which could actually be a bigger challenge.

That’s because the division of the countries into the two heats is done from allocated pots, with the explicit aim of dividing up the natural regional voting blocs such as the Balkans.

For example, Serbia failed to get out of their semi in 2009 with ‘Cipela’. Under a now-obsolete system, its semi-final tenth place under 100% televoting was given to another song, higher placed by the juries but not yet already qualified.

The problem for the big hitters is compounded in 2011 by the remarkable fact that they are all drawn in the first semi-final. Not only that, their competition also includes some other countries with a fair few voting allies (Georgia, Albania and to a lesser extent, Portugal) and the pre-contest favourite at the time of going to press (Norway).

So, things could get very messy indeed on that night of the first semi-final, May 10th. A country or two with a fine record could find its name not among the qualification envelopes at all. Cue the ‘where did it all go wrong’ post-mortems.

For the big hitters who see it through this stage, though, the reunion with all of their voting allies in the final should ensure even the worst songs among them will be in with a fighting chance of a top ten finish.

4 comments to Eurovision Top Tip Update: The Big Hitters – How Low Can They Go?

  • James

    I agree with pretty much all of what you said, although I would probably add Ukraine to the list as well, even with their relatively low placing in 2009.

    Will you be doing an article on France? It screamed “winner” to me the first time I heard it, I’d be interested to know what you think.

  • Daniel

    Hi James, I did consider Ukraine, though their very poor 2005 result indicates that strong songs have been the biggest factor in the country’s relative success otherwise. Interestingly, juries and televoters felt similarly about their 2009 entry, and their 2010 result was boosted by the juries, so unlike all the countries mentioned in the article, juries have had a positive impact so far on the nation’s results.

    As for France, whilst popopera is not a genre I like, I understand this kind of entry will have a well-defined niche for itself. I think the song hits a too-early crescendo it hasn’t earnt halfway through, which interrupts any slow build (vital in a ‘Bolero’ number), and leaves you wondering what the main chorus/melody line is supposed to be. A killer live performance could overcome all that, but I think supporters need to be hoping for a good draw next Tuesday to keep their hopes alive.

  • Panos

    Unfortunately, I think France 2011 is another Patricia Kaas case; top 5 with juries and 10th-15th with televote. Drawing on my still fresh 2010 experience, I honestly cannot see this standing out in the eyes of a group of non-Eurovision fans. Last year, all my friends picked up and liked all three Germany, Romania and Turkey during the final (I should have taken it as a sign!). I think Sognu will, on average, weird them out. If even Patricia’s niche could only achieve 17th, I cannot see why this will do THAT MUCH better in the televote. A bit better maybe. I think only a great draw and his looks could help him knock on the door of the overall top 5 (without entering!).

  • James

    It seems a lot of people agree with me though: it’s second favourite right now, and still shortening. Patricia Kaas was never that popular with the bookies, althought admittedly Norway did have a stranglehold on the odds that year.

    Whatever happens, it’s got people talking. That can only be a good thing.

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