Eurovision 2016: The running order for the semi-finals

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.

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29 comments to Eurovision 2016: The running order for the semi-finals

  • Hippo

    Well I’ll have a proper look later and decide my pre rehearsals qualifiers but just a few quick thoughts:

    Czech Republic in 10th is absolutely ridiculous. If they do not qualify this year it will be because of that and that alone. I still think they will but svt are really not helping. Stuff like this just makes me question the point of this producer led draw. If they pull out again I would not blame them.

    As I thought, Malta and Australia given a lot of help.

    Can Latvia still win semi 2 from 1st? I was pretty sure they would win this semi but now? Certainly makes it harder. It is quite clear whoever is calling the shots wants Australia to win this semi and doubtless they will get the best draw possible in the final.

    Bulgaria not given much help either at 13 in semi 2.

    Finland, Greece, Moldova, Hungary is a pretty poor start to semi 1. The first three are terrible (Hungary’s ok).

    Overall I don’t think it’s a particularly good draw. It doesn’t even out semi one much by giving Russia the best slot possible and it isn’t helping the three most struggling countries who’ve brought good songs (Bulgaria, Croatia and Czech Republic).

  • Alen

    i feel czech republic was screwed over. putting them right after the biggest favorite that will have everyone talking for good or bad. people might “miss” it.

    i would have switched bosnia&herzegovina and czech republic imo.

    it’s weird that after latvia 3 ballads are followed at the start of semi2.

    at first i thought bulgaria has a bad slot but it has 2 bad songs in front of it and 2 ballads after it. probably will stand out more this way.

    i feel like they put san marino in front of russia so russia suddenly doesn’t feel outdated anymore 😉

  • I think 10th is actually a great draw for Czech Republic – it’ll be a massive contrast to San Marino and Russia, which can only benefit it.

    Daniel, I’m interested about your comment on Azerbaijan, that it’s only getting points from its allies. I’ve not really thought it’s particularly strong, but our thoughts seem to be outliers, as many people generally believe it’s going to do well.

    I’m also curious about Bosnia. I think that 17th is an excellent draw for it, the best it was going to get… From a betting perspective, I’m certainly hoping it’s not enough to help it!

    • Daniel

      Hi SamB, thanks for your thoughts. Regarding Azerbaijan, I initially quite liked its polished Jordin Sparks-esque chorus. But repeat listens indicated how lazy it is as a piece of songwriting: it’s as if they settled on a good refrain (“Gonna take a mira-cuuul, whoa-oooa”), and decided that was enough. There’s very little else to it.

      Watching Samra perform it live in Moscow showed me what a long and lightweight three minutes it becomes in her hands. My assumption at the moment is a continuation of Azerbaijan’s last two results, as stated in the article. (At the time, no one conceived of Dilara coming close to NQ.) But there are quite a few in this semi who have helped Azerbaijan of late: Malta, Russia and Czech Republic among others.

      Bosnia…. Hmmmmm. It’s always looked like a potential car crash to me, with Deen trying to be Zeljko, and probably falling well short. There are some friendly points to pick up though – regionally and with diaspora in the likes of Sweden. I’d still like to say no, given its unlikeliness to appeal to anyone neutral. But it’s a semi-big hitter in the penultimate slot. Right now I’m leaving it alone given that there’s other fish to fry in this heat.

      • johnkef

        I believe that Croatia had the worst news this morning. Slot No5 has a 6/16 record of qualifications in the double semi finals era.They have the allies and a good song but i think it got a little bit harder for them

        • Ben Cook

          Miracle has one of the best refrains in the contest. It does get a bit exhausting towards the end and a questionmark over whether she’ll be able to deliver on the night, but I’m still expecting it to qualify with ease.

          Agree John, Croatia might now only be borderline given the slot and the performer. But then I’ve never rated the song myself.

          • johnkef

            Agree 100% with you Ben about Croatia. I don’t like the song at all and the only reason i think they might have some chances are the allies.

            Greece, Romania and Azerbaijan form a group of countries with a 100% Q record that is jeopardized this year. Azerbaijan has delivered every year, but Samra’s song is so much inferior to previous entries. She ‘ll ”need a miracle” to qualify…

          • Ande

            I believe Croatia will qualify with ease. Even if we assume poor staging and charisma her vocals alone should see Croatia through by being top 5 with juries.

          • Looking at that performance…

            PRO’S: Stunning vocalist. It’s the voice alone that brings this mid-tempo folk song to new heights. The crisp & clear, yet high-pitched, breakbale sounding vocals are a perfect match to this small song. In a way, it’s also nice to see Nina perform. The way she ‘closes herself up’ while singing, makes the package look small and intimate.

            CON’S: It’s exactly the way she performs that might be hindering massive appeal. While admirably sung, she’s not engaging/connecting enough with the camera’s. On top of that, I think this performance is too static. What really would help in Stockholm, if she walks away from that microphone standard. Lastly, the song is good and cute, but coming before Douwe Bob isn’t an advantage. Douwe Bob clearly is the better, charismatic, more cheerful performer.

  • Ande

    Belgium might qualify now!

  • Boki

    I’m also surprised about Azer comment, putting it in in the same basket with Greece regarding the song quality? Surely it will appeal to someone outside the voting allies?

    Edit: just saw the answer above. Dilara was “a boring ballad” so wouldn’t compare it to Samra which has enough life in it to pick up some neutral points imo.

    • Ande

      Azerbaijan is such a coinflip, I have difficulties seing neutrals voting for it over Norway/Czech Republic unless Samra delivers on stage. If she performs decently she will pick up neutral points, if she is the vocal trainwreck I expect she will rely solely on voting allies to get through.

      • Boki

        Czech is a classical ballad so it’s a bit different target group.
        I agree that 0% neutrals will vote Azer over Norway since they are in different semis 🙂

        • Ande

          Hahaha, I meant Malta not Norway. Thank you Boki =)

          Samra looks confident on stage but still runs the risk of being completely overshadowed by Ira. In the end I’m not sure if she will be. Samras has managed to hold her vocals together for the all-important hooks of her live performances, only the last minute when she starts wailing is particularly off-putting.

    • Personally, I think Azerbaijan is completely underestimated. And compared to 2014 and 2015 the Azeri finally have again a very accessible modern pop entry. In a way ‘Miracle’ reminds me of 2010 and 2011.

      Samra isn’t the best vocalist, but 2011 has proven that they can perfectly hide that with captivating staging. For me Azerbeidzjan is a certain qualifier.

      • Ande

        This is a solo performance of a more demanding song but I agree that Azerbaijans production shouldn’t be underestimated. She also has a very good draw that makes her stand out.

  • Justin

    Have to say (highly unusually) that I too slightly disagree with Daniel on Azerbaijan. My thoughts are:

    1. The Russian Party footage actually indicated how well Samra’s suspect vocals could be just about held together by a backing track (or backing singers in Eurovision).
    2. We know they are capable of pulling off highly effective staging
    3. Drawn 5 from the end in their semi
    4. With the exception of Malta no other market leaders for the SF performing in the last 6
    5. Singing after the dull and slightly scary Estonia and before the very niche Montenegro should help it stand out as contemporary and relatively uplifting
    6. Each country has to hand out points (jury and televote) to 10 of the other 17 countries and we have the likes of San Marino, Moldova, Finland, Austria, Montenegro and Bosnia (all of which I think will struggle with juries or televote or both) in this SF

    Of course if it is indeed vocally a disaster then of course I take it all back!

  • Hippo

    Interesting debate on Azerbaijan. I’m of the view it is borderline at best. I can’t see many friends for Azerbaijan either -if they’re playing fair-. Russia and Moldova, maybe Hungary but they’re lower in the pecking order in each of them.
    The hook is strong but it does verge on the irritating for viewers and amateurish for jurors.
    I don’t know how they will stage this either and Samra is a weak performer.

    I’ve seen one of the bookies has priced them at 3/1 not to qualify and I’m very happy to take that on.

  • PurpleKylie

    Called Finland opening the show, oh SVT you are so predictable…

    After initially being angry about Latvia being on first, a
    I’ve thought about it and it’s not the end of the world. I mean they would’ve qualified easy from any slot, but still, so early? Maybe they have something in the bag if they were considered a worthy show opener…

  • Hippo

    My pre rehearsals prediction:
    Semi 1: top 3-
    Russia, Armenia and Malta

    Qualifiers:
    Iceland, Cyprus, Czech Republic,

    Borderline in:
    Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Hungary, Estonia.

    Borderline out: Azerbaijan, Netherlands, Austria

    Non Qualifiers: Finland, Greece, Moldova, San Marino, Montenegró

    Semi 2-
    Top 3: Latvia, Serbia, Ukraine

    Qualifiers:
    Australia, Belgium, Lithuania

    Borderline in :
    Norway, Bulgaria, Poland, Georgia

    Borderline out:
    Ireland, FYROM, Romania, Israel

    Non Qualifiers:
    Albania, Belarus, Denmark, Slovenia, Switzerland,

    • Ande

      Thanks Hippo =)
      Could you do one with approximate score ranges instead? I think that tells more than ordinal rankings!

      • Hippo

        t’s too early for me to approach it from such a scientific view for every country as the range is too wide until I see staging – particularly for countries like Armenia and Malta where staging and vocals will make or break them. The range at the moment would be just an absolute best and worst case scenario, which is why I have so many borderliners- countries that could easily swap places and I wouldn’t be surprised. For some it’s easy enough -Russia will probably be in the 250- 300 point region but Armenia could either get as low as 150 or as high as 300 and not too much in between those extremes.

  • I don’t think it’s a bad thing for Azerbaijan not to qualify. They have a clean sheet with qualification yer have gone off the boil a bit since their desperate yet successful attempt in 2011.

    I’m not saying I don’t want them there, but I think there’s something not quite right about countries with questionable human rights records hosting Eurovision.

  • Hippo. Agree almost a hundred percent with your predictions except I’d have Netherlands in and Bosnia out of semi 1. Also think Croatia will be better than borderline.

  • sonovox

    I think Greece should qualify even from 2. For mine, it’s getting underestimated by a Western market/commentariat who aren’t quite down with the Balkan folk melodies and additive rhythms and see the rap as a red light. I don’t see it as jury-unfriendly, and think it should collect quite enough to overcome several of the female mid-tempo acts that are fishing in pretty much the same waters as each other, not to mention all of the near-certain NQs Daniel mentioned.

  • People have written it off, but can Laura Tesoro now qualify from the pimp slot?

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