At last! The running order for the semi-finals has been published – here. Finland open the first semi and Malta end it. Latvia open the second semi and Belgium end it. Russia and Australia got the best draws from their first half positions.
I’ve been as impatient as anyone for the information. But it’s worth putting the running order into perspective. An excellent package should qualify wherever it is placed in a semi-final – witness Loic’s second place in last year’s first semi from #3. The inverse goes for an entry that doesn’t work on stage. Serbia in 2013 and Croatia in 2010 were both shock non-qualifiers with late draws, because they came across poorly.
I would therefore argue that the draw impacts borderliners more than those too good to fail, or too bad to succeed.
The history book on the shelf does indicate that a late draw is useful. Since 2010, when juries were given a 50% say in the semi-finals, at least five of the qualifiers have come from the second half of the draw every time. More eye-opening, at least four out of the last six to perform have qualified from each heat.
From 2010-2, it was more common for five out of the last six to qualify; from 2013-2015, it’s usually been four. Might this be because the switch from a random draw to a producer-decided one in 2013 – which is supposed to give each song greater space to breathe by placing contrasting entries around it – helps earlier songs not feel as buried?
These statistical records might be tested in the second heat this year, which has a strong-looking first half. All of Lithuania, Latvia, Ireland, Poland, Serbia and FYROM can boast voting allies. Israel has a harder task, but in Hovi Star has one of the better vocalists in this year’s competition.
Belarus and Switzerland feel like the only rank outsiders for qualification in this section of the running order – will no more than five still only qualify from this section? And will four from the last six still qualify with Georgia, Albania and Belgium being the last three to perform?
My take on the first semi is that Azerbaijan, Greece and Bosnia are only getting significant points from their strongest allies – of which they have a good few. That may or may not be enough. Beating their totals should get you to the final – given the likelihood that Montenegro, San Marino, Moldova and Finland will fall short.
Let us know all your thoughts on the semi-final running order below. As usual, I’ll be reporting on the Amsterdam concert this week, the London event next weekend, before heading off to rehearsals in Stockholm at the start of May.