Eurovision 2012: Analysis of the draw

This morning the running order for the semi-final and for the automatic qualifiers in the final was decided. You can see it here. The draw in the final may well be crucial in a year where there is no standout song. In 2009, Alexander Rybak would have won from anywhere in the running order, for example, but arguably that is not the case with any contender this year.

It was thus most intriguing to see where the six automatic qualifiers (France, Italy, the UK, Spain, Germany and Azerbaijan) would be drawn in the final, especially as they provide a stronger set of entries than usual, as bookmakers’ lists indicate. With the possible exception of France, here are a bunch of songs that can be perceived to be jury-friendly. As for televoters, however, all of these entries feel like they needed a favourable draw for the biggest impact.

Most of the better entries that have to compete in the semis need not be as worried about where they have ended up in their heats. The draw here was arguably more important for borderline acts, whose qualification chances may hinge on a favourable slot. For punters though, it’s all of interest, as the winner and top 3 markets for each semi are at stake as well as those bets on qualifying or not.

Anyway, here are some initial points that stood out for me:

1. Spain were obviously delighted to draw the wildcard which allowed them to choose their place in the final for the second year running. At number 19 this seems like a boost for their chances, and their odds will presumably shorten in the Betfair win market as a result. But Germany got themselves an even better draw at 20 and having these two slowies back-to-back may not advantage either of them.

2. The UK were not so lucky, drawn first. Starting the show off with a ballad is never a good thing – just ask Paradise Oskar. France at nine, Italy at ten and Azerbaijan at 13 weren’t done any particular favours either, and the chances of any automatic qualifier taking the contest diminished slightly with this draw.

3. In the first semi, that’s more full of zany, upbeat nunbers, it was important for these entries to be drawn as late as possible to avoid being upstaged by whatever madness comes afterwards. Or at least not be drawn back-to-back, which might not have been good for either. Jedward got the pimp slot in the semi for the second year running. This was far enough away from the Russian grannies in 14th, but following Austria and Moldova, it’s a high-octane finish to the heat. Denmark and Hungary come across as six minutes of sanity at 13th and 15th respectively in the second half of this semi.

4. In the first half of this heat, Montenegro will have television viewers scratching their heads when it opens the show. Greece is only at three but will be happy to be sandwiched between Iceland and Latvia. Same goes for Romania at six, coming in between Albania and Switzerland. It doesn’t help Belgium at eight to be followed by another slow, simple number in Finland. Israel will be happy to be drawn after these two in 10.

5. The second semi is far more ballad-heavy, so Bulgaria will be gutted to be drawn at 8, next to a more accessible uptempo number in Ukraine at 7. Some of the Balkan songs are back-to-back too: Serbia at 1 followed by FYROM at 2; Slovenia at 9 followed by Croatia at ten. It’s a great draw for Norway, however, at 16, after rocky Slovakia and followed only by the slow Bosnian number and Lithuania. Sweden is at number 11, but coming after Croatia and before Georgia is a plus.

What are your first reactions to the draw – both for the finalists and semi-finalists? Let us know below.

40 comments to Eurovision 2012: Analysis of the draw

  • Emma

    Interesting analysis. I don’t necessarily think the UK’s draw is damning–Paradise seemed to suffer from nerves (IIRC, he was only 20) and a lack of experience, whereas Englebert is an old pro with large crowds. Yes, the ballad might be an issue, but Englebert is a much bigger name than Paradise and people will no doubt remember him.

    Agree on France and Italy–they’ll be splitting the vote for sure.

    Do you think we can dismiss FYRM as a contender now? The song is bad, the draw is worse, and what with Serbia’s big-name contestant and likable song, I can’t see the other Balkans soaking up too many points, especially with Croatia and Slovenia side by side. Will anyone even remember which one is which?

    Norway’s chances of qualifying just shot very, very close to 100% IMO if they weren’t already there. They have a great draw, a seemingly inevitable douze points from their friends in Sweden and no doubt some love from Estonia and from Turkey thanks to the Eastern influences. If Eric Saade won his heat singing 8th while the all-too-similar Jedward sang last, a more polished (i.e. more jury-friendly) but similar performance with a much better draw, no Danny Saucedo, and arguably more friends thanks to Tooji’s Rybak-esque Eastern-influenced song from the West, Tooji should have very little trouble.

    By the way, a few questions just out of my own personal interest: I’m a big fan of the male-performed pop/rock/rock coming out of Central and Eastern Europe (Germany, Swiss, Hungary, Slovakia, Belarus). Do you think any of these have a chance of qualifying or, in Germany’s case, scoring well? I feel like Belarus could qualify–no matter how bad the song is, they always have enough televoting love to make the top 10 in that category, and We Are the Heroes is aptly performed and reasonably jury-friendly. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Nick D

      Paradise Oskar isn’t the only example of ballad/slows being killed off by being the show-opener. It looked like a procession towards an Azeri win in 2010 until Safura drew 1 and barely scraped fifth in the end; the sequence of Bosnia 2007/Romania 2008/Lithuania 2009 all also did significantly worse than they might have expected on the pedigree and quality of the songs.

  • Daniel

    Hi Emma, here are my brief thoughts on the ones you mentioned:
    – FYROM can’t be discounted with Balkan allies and likely jury votes, though it is a terrible draw;
    – The German song has grown on me. I think juries will show some respect for it, but if it’s sandwiched by another ballad, televoters may well forget it;
    – I don’t have high hopes for the Swiss song qualifying, but as the only song of its genre in the semi, I wouldn’t rule it out either;
    – Hungary is good in studio, a disaster live;
    – Slovakia may well surprise, but rehearsals will tell us more;
    – Belarus hasn’t been done any favours by the draw and may just fall short in a heat where there will be plenty of bloc voting.

  • fiveleaves

    Any ideas when the ad breaks come Daniel?

    I have a feeling there was one after Azer last year and maybe that’s why Spain picked the same position.

    As for the Spanish draw in general. It’s not ideal to have Germany following, but they’re very different songs.
    Germany obviously male and a more contemporary song than Spain, that is a good old fashioned belter.

    Certainly preferable to having Azer, Italy or France following it.

    • Daniel

      Hi fiveleaves – very good question. In the final there is one main commercial break. Last year it was after the 12th song of 25. But we have 26 in the final this year. Will be interesting to see whether Azerbaijan as song 13 want to put themselves right before the ad break (which is considered a slight advantage) or immediately afterwards (which is considered a slight disadvantage).

      Yes, agree with you that there are plenty of ways to differentiate Spain and Germany. If I was making the choice for Spain, I’d have gone for something later than 19 though. There’s a risk of a few other ballads being drawn around these two. That wouldn’t help either of them.

      • henna

        i smiled a bit when the spanish guy said they choose 19 cause of azerbaijan’s win from last year. I remember when in dusseldorf they got the wildcard too and choose 22 as that was lena-s winning running order. look how well they did with that one. they need a new strategy :))

      • Nick D

        The one time to date that we had a 26 song final was in 2003, with the ad break coming after song 13. As you say Daniel, if it’s the Azeris making the decision, it’ll be interesting to see whether they want to slightly advantage themselves or slightly disadvantage.

        The ad breaks are a bit flexible though, even in rehearsals week – the first semi in 2008 solved the problem of a mammoth scene change between Russia and Greece by shifting an ad break to between the penultimate and final songs of the night, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth from all involved!

      • fiveleaves

        OK, cheers.
        Scrap that theory then.
        As henna says it seems they just pick the previous years winning position.
        Lucky #1 didn’t win last year 🙂

        And I agree. As a backer of Spain I’d have preferred a slightly later draw, but unlike some others the draw hasn’t done severe damage to it’s chances

        • henna

          I’m an eager backer of Germany’s Roman, great contemporary song and guy, I would have preferred him to be sandwiched between two trashy upbeat songs. Spain is also up there with my favorites and would very much like to see her win, would be deserved, so I’m not that happy these two ended up back to back. I would have loved to see Italy or the UK win too, mainly because it would be lovely to see any of those two organize the event in 2013, but I don’t really feel it’s possible from a that early draw. yes, uk won in 1976 starting first,but I don’t think anyone came even close to winning from there since the introduction of televoting.

          • fiveleaves

            Spain & Germany are 2 of my favourites, henna.

            Last year 2 of my favourites were drawn together in Austria and Azer.
            One flopped and the other one won and the one that flopped was an excellent trade.

            I wouldn’t mind a similar result this year 🙂

  • Panos

    For me, iceland really stands out in that draw in semi 1. The english version is excellent and I hope they manage to tranfer the twilight-y drama from the clip to the stage. I think the juries will go wild for it.

  • tpfkar

    In both semis, some of the songs I’d seen as the weakest are late so will need reassessment: Moldova and Austria in SF1 & Bosnia and Lithuania in SF2. I’m not brave enough to bet against them getting through from such good running positions.

    I fear the UK will get slaughtered opening the show with such a measured song, they should frantically rewrite if allowed.

  • Why are ‘ballads’ still considered more dangerous to qualify than up-tempo songs? Especially with the return of 50% jury’s, this disadvantage has been erased quite a bit!

    The starting grid is more important for all those borderliners that look only to 100% televoting. Televoters have a harder time remembering songs, as they are less focussed, less concentrated than jury members.

    So in essence we could say the same about up-tempo songs Switzerland and Romania that are also back to back. Will get a lot of televotes, but probably jury’s find the sweetness of Iris from Belgium such a breath of fresh air, that they will vote for Belgium.

    Finland being a danger to Belgium? I don’t think so. The Finnish entry is way more complicated when hearing it the 1st time. With Iris I got that ‘Tom Dice feeling’ again.

    Also have a look at the ratings behind the starting grid in our article: http://www.esfmagazine.nl/?p=8190 .

    In case of The Netherlands, my own country. It seems, it really seems the devil is playing with our fate when it comes to the starting grid draw.

    But then again, I never really….got our own entry.

    Conclusion: Belgium to final, Netherlands will not qualify for 9th consecutive year and surely it will be the 13th year in a row without a TOP 10 spot in the final.

    I think…at this stage….many Dutch (die hard) fans would agree on this one: Have a 1 or 2 year break :-).

    • Emma

      I had to laugh when the Netherlands got third for the second year in a row. Part Dutch here, so I feel a sense of sadness and shame when I think of our recent record. Especially b/c last year’s entry was actually good! You guys should’ve known better:) and sent Tim Douwsma. I agree, I think the record will continue. Gonna be hard for someone to top it, although some of those central European countries (hi, Slovakia) could one day top that. My advice is for the Netherlands to take advantage of the situation in Spain and Italy, donate more money than either one of them to the contest, and voila! A spot in the Big 6.

      Your comment about ballads is really making me think though. My take on it is that if they’re sung early enough and they aren’t memorable, they lose so much televote support (especially if they don’t have that much to begin with, like the UK) that the juries have to REALLY love them to save them. Remember Lithuania last year? Evalina sang fourth and the televoters gave her 20th. The juries seemed to also have forgotten about her (or realized just how dated and Disney C’est Ma Vie was) and gave her the same. Same happened to Paradise and Da Da Dam. Tons of love from the televoters in the semi (he did better with them than in the juries, then he sank like a stone to 21st after singing first. And mediocre jury support meant he barely rose above that.

      In short, my thoughts: early ballad must be SERIOUSLY jury-friendly to stand a chance (i.e., Tom Dice).

      • True, true Emma, but you forget one thing. The semi finals IMO are there to filter out the worst songs. I am surprised the actual function of semi finals hasn’t been discussed that way.

        IMO it’s very safe to say this:
        01) Each year we have an idea of which semi final is the weakest of the two. That is purely based on the quality of the songs.
        02) To qualify from the weaker final means you need to be at least in the TOP 3 of that semi final to progress into the TOP 10 in the grand final.
        03) For the stronger semi final you could roughly say that a TOP 5 placing results in good chances to be in the TOP 10 in the grand final.
        04) Some exceptions do exist. For instance with ballads. The smaller a field of songs, the less it hurts those songs. And the grand final consists of 26 songs. 8 more than in a regular semi final.
        05) Another exception is demographical voting. It helped Georgia from a 6th place last year in the semi to a 9th place in the final.
        06) The statistical chance that a country ends worse (doesn’t matter if it’s only one or two spots) in the grand final compared to the semi final is perhaps close to 95%?
        07) Starting grid has got an influence on every song. Small influences on top contenders (Would Italy have won if they performed from 20th starting grid and Azerbeidzjan from grid 3? Very likely yes, bot both songs had two big advantages: They were both televoting and jury friendly, give or take some diferences) and bigger influences (ballads that like certain impact if the draw is not positive enough).

        Leaves me with one remark. Malta did score a 2nd place from start grid 2 with 100% televoting. The charm from The Olsen Brothers gave Denmark the victory from 100% televoting. Serbia won with a not so slim girl, but many people agree it was the best Eurovision victory in years: 100% televoting also. Belgium got 2nd with 100% televoting with a very folksy song that is reminiscent of Norway 1995.

        Conclusion: Whatever song you bring on stage: It needs to have instant impact. The fact that Chiara and Marija weren’t that slim, was not forgotten by the televoter. The fact that two old guys with grey hair were not forgotten is another example. So I would say that we have a pretty strong case that the UK this year with Engelbert Humperdinck is perhaps the ballad of this year’s contest that will do very very well.

        I don’t see why his 1st start grid will leave him forgotten by televoters. Perhaps to a certain extent, but if the UK can score a 6th place among televoters and a 2nd place among jury’s, then we can pretty much see the UK winning.

        My biggest three contenders this year:
        – The UK (charming old crooner with great song. Sympathy votes),
        – Sweden (also instant, alternative performance that works very well on screen) and…
        – Norway (televoters love this up-tempo stuff from this sexy young Arab prince).

        Furthermore I think…
        – Italy (what a song, what a beat and what a performer Nina is!),
        – Germany (Young handsome bloke, Cullum-song = Votes!!),
        – Slovenia (or Serbia. But it will have Balkan-atmosphere),
        – Spain (The ‘Jade Ewen’ from this year. Best build up),
        – Serbia (or Slovenia. But it has lots of Balkan intimacy),
        – Israël (Funny band. Fresh, original, ABBA meets Occupy!) and….
        – Romania (Best of the summer songs. The ‘Shakira’-feel)….
        …..are pretty much safe for a place on the left hand of the scoreboard.

  • Tim B

    It looks good for Slovakia to qualify, in my opinion. That might be one of my larger bets I’ll place in the semis this year.

  • Tentatively agree on Slovakia.

    Thought banging around my noggin at the moment: purely theoretically, would it be possible for the Babushki to get a sufficiently high televote score that a low jury score couldn’t prevent them from winning? I’m thinking if they got between 5-8 points from most countries (so winning or being second in the televote but with a lower jury score). Can anyone answer this mathematically or does anyone have the means to work it out?

    • Nick D

      “…purely theoretically, would it be possible for the Babushki to get a sufficiently high televote score that a low jury score couldn’t prevent them from winning?”

      In a theoretical extreme case, then no. Assume the Babushki max out every televote whilst scoring nothing at all from every jury – then, if one named song tops every jury and finishes top 10 in more than half the televotes then the Babushki definitely don’t win.

      In practice though, winning every televote would probably be enough, because the juries just aren’t going to have that degree of unanimity about who to support.

      • tpfkar

        Just looking at some recent averages:
        (Year, Winning Score, Number of Countries, Average Points for Winner)
        2011,221,43,5.26
        2010,246,39,6.47
        2009,387,42,9.43
        2008,272,42,6.63
        2007,268,42,6.54

        So Alexander Rybak aside, 5-8 points from every country would make the Babushki close to winning.

        If they did sweep the televotes, I’d expect it to be enough; 12 televote points + 0 jury points would only be bettered by 10 televote + (3,4,5,6,7,8,10,12) jury
        or 8 televote + (5,6,7,8,10,12) jury
        or 7 televote + (6,7,8,10,12) jury
        or 6 televote + (7,8,10,12) jury etc.

        I’d be surprised if that dipped below 7 points in most countries, and it would get 12 points where the jury are out of line with the televote.

        • Boki

          It’s not clear to me how they calculate those final numbers, if I look for example last year (assuming the wiki page is correct).

          Split table (televoting + jury):
          Italy 99 + 251 = 350
          Sweden 221 + 106 = 327
          and that translates to Ita 189, Swe 185 in the final combined table, so it looks much closer.

          • Nick D

            Basically, in each country the points that would be allocated by pure televote (12-10-8 etc) are added to those that would be allocated by pure jury (12-10-8 again), and the rankings in that added list give the final 12-10-8 that goes on to the scoreboard – if there’s a tie, the higher televote score takes precedence.

            What we haven’t been given in the last few years are the full per-country breakdown of how each jury and televote voted to get that calculation – it’s not especially clear why.

    • I did some working out based on last year’s song, which was the worst from Russia for some time, yet it still got 7th place in the televote. The grannies will clearly get more votes, as they’ll appeal to non-bloc countries in the way Alexey Vorobyov never could.
      Lets just say that the grannies get 5th or 6th place in the televote and 20th or 21st in the jury reckoning, that equates to an extra 60 or so points on last year. Based on last year’s scoreboard, that leaves the Grannies just short of a placed finish.
      Now you’re talking about them getting more televotes, so that would further enhance their eventual position.
      The caveat however, is that there will be another song that does well with both the televote and the jury, so I still reckon the grannies best finishing position will likely be 3rd-6th – and that’s if the novelty hasn’t worn off by then.

  • tpfkar

    I just listened to the 18 tracks from SF1 in order, together with a break in the middle. Trying to get a feel for how it might flow.

    The halves feel very different. After a bizarre false start with Montenegro, the first half gets going with some of the best songs in the contest. Iceland – Greece – Latvia. Iceland the least memorable and not surefire qualifiers at all.

    But the whole thing then goes flat as a pancake with succession of dull song after dull song. Switzerland stands out from the crowd and is light relief. Finland’s draw is nowhere near as good as it looks, and I see a bulk of non-qualifiers from this section.

    The second half is far more memorable, although Cyprus are suprisingly easily forgotten. Once the Russian Grannies are on stage, the whole tone changes. Hungary have a nightmare draw having to follow them. Moldova look credible following Austria, and Ireland look credible following Moldova.

    So I see the winners from the draw as
    SWITZERLAND
    MOLDOVA
    ISRAEL
    IRELAND

    and the losers:
    HUNGARY
    CYPRUS
    FINLAND
    ICELAND

    Hope there’s something useful there.

  • Boki

    Slightly disappointed with the draw of Italy, compensated by Germany’s 20th position. No need to comment poor UK anymore.

    Regarding the semis, I find clips like this very helpful (there is only semi2 at the moment of writing):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7We0A3J6mXM

    Someone was nice to compile this sort of digest and I have establised my judgement until the rehearsals, feel pretty confident about 8 out of 10 at least.

  • Justin

    Does anybody know when each country has to decide in which language they will perform their song? Several entries only appear to be available in their native language at the moment but presumably they are allowed to change to English up to a certain deadline?

  • Justin

    I see that Daniel thinks the Serbian entry is better left in its native language – but is the general rule that songs have more success if sung in English? Or does it really depend on the individual song?

  • Tim B

    Hi Daniel/Andrew,

    As you will know, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice are starting this weekend. Will you be covering them here on sofabet?

  • peter

    Hi Daniel. Great Eurovison coverage so far. Thank you. Do you know of any fan polls sites that you would recommend?

    • Daniel

      Hi Peter, sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this one. I was waiting for the fan poll I usually rely on to become operational, which it now has. It’s here. So far, we have a runaway leader (Sweden) and a clear second (Iceland).

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