The semi-final allocation draw has been made and the outcome can be found here. A couple of things are worth pointing out before picking out some early outliers.
As before, the countries have been allocated to the first half or the second half of each semi-final, which each delegation can take into account when booking accommodation. In a new move this year, however, producers will decide the exact running order of each heat within these parameters. (There won’t even be these parameters for the final.) The intention is to provide the best televisual experience. The ramifications on this for punters will soon be considered in a separate article on Sofabet.
It’s also worth reiterating that it’s very early days, despite an unusual flurry of selections in December. I don’t think there’s a contender among them despite the encouraging noises surrounding Ukraine’s choice of ‘Gravity’. So the discussion that follows draws a broad brush over which countries or blocs have benefited or not. With most of the songs themselves unknown, there isn’t much more to be said.
1. Last year the controversial decision was taken to separate Slovenia from the Balkan bloc pot, leaving the possibility that five ex-yugos would be drawn with each other. That duly happened. It helped Macedonia get into the final though wasn’t enough for Croatia or Slovenia. This year, Slovenia were again kept apart in a different pot and they were again drawn with a majority of the other ex-yugos – Montenegro, Croatia and Serbia – in semi one. Macedonia have not been so lucky left in the other semi, though they do have Albania and Bulgaria as allies there.
2. There was plenty of re-jigging of the Nordic pot. Sweden were taken out as one of the automatic finalists, and Denmark and Norway were already allotted to separate semis. Joining Iceland, Finland and Estonia were the less Scandi-centric Baltics and Ireland. There was the possibility of a five-strong Scandiwegian bloc but it hasn’t happened. Sweden, Denmark and Estonia vote in heat one; Norway, Finland and Iceland are in heat two, and the closest unions within this bloc (Denmark / Iceland for example) have also been split.
3. With the return of Armenia, the ex-USSR bloc is back to full strength. Armenia were put in the Soviet pot for the first time instead of Israel who vote with an eastwards bias. Armenia are in the same semi as rivals Azerbaijan which can cause some tension in their respective broadcasts. There are actually more ex-USSR countries in the first semi: Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova and Lithuania (the most eastwards looking of the Baltics, voting-wise), but with Israel joining Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Latvia in the second heat, it’s not unbalanced.
4. There will be some small sense of satisfaction for every country drawn in the smaller semi 1. Statistically alone they have a better chance. It also contains fewer big hitters – Serbia, Russia and Ukraine – and slightly more countries with a poor record of qualifying – Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Belarus and Slovenia for example. In semi 2 we have Azerbaijan, Greece, Armenia and Romania for the big hitters, and the minnows that spring to mind are San Marino, Bulgaria, Latvia and Switzerland.
5. Ireland will be delighted to be in semi 1 for that reason alone, and because the UK will vote in this semi. You’ve also got in this semi western European nations such as Netherlands and Belgium whose televote won’t be dominated by Turkish, Armenian or Greek diasporas.
On a separate note, the Emerald Isle may not be done yet with its X Factor / Eurovision crossover, which is much appreciated on a site like ours which specialises in both. We’ve had Jedward representing the country for two years running, and it seems likely that one of the acts in the running for this year’s national final on 22 Feb is Melanie McCabe.
Anyway, the really important stuff is largely to come: the songs themselves. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on the semi-final allocation draw below. Any big winners or losers that you can see?