The 2020 #Eurovision semi-final allocation draw

Today the 2020 Eurovision season kicked up a notch. There was the “insignia exchange ceremony” from the Tel Aviv organizers to those from Rotterdam (which is mildly interesting) and the allocation draws for the semi-finals (which is very interesting). I did not watch the live stream—which started at 04h New Zealand Daylight Savings Time, our sleepy time—so our analysis is based on the official report on Eurovision.tv.

Delegations are drawing for either the first or second half of each semi-final. But we don’t know when precisely in each show any delegation will perform: the performance order will be set by the producers in March. That makes sense, since we only have a handful of confirmed entries at this point.

While they do not compete in the semi-finals, the Big Five and host nation still need to vote in one. The first order of business was to allocate voting semi-finals:

  • Semi-final one: Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands 
  • Semi-final two: France, Spain and the United Kingdom 

In some years there have been requests by pre-qualified delegations for a particular night. It seems there were no such requests this year.  

Semi-final One has 17 entries; Semi-Final Two has 18 entries the most concise “half” for 2020 will be the first half of Semi-Final One, which has eight entries; the rest have nine. Regardless, 10 entries from each semi-final will qualify for this year’s Grand Final. 

Let’s crack on then. 

First Semi-Final (12 May)

With one less entry that the Thursday night show, any delegation allocated to the Tuesday semi-final should be a bit pleased. Fifty-nine (59) per cent of this semi-final’s entries will qualify. 

First half

  • North Macedonia
  • Belarus
  • Lithuania
  • Sweden
  • Slovenia
  • Australia
  • Ireland
  • Russia

Second half

  • Norway
  • Cyprus
  • Croatia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Malta
  • Israel
  • Ukraine
  • Romania
  • Belgium

With only eight entries in the first half of the draw, whichever second half entry performs ninth will effectively be the midpoint in this semi-final. Looking at the pots and how each’s members have been allocated in this semi-final, we get:

Yugosphere: North Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia

Russophone: Belarus, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine

Scandinavian: Sweden, Norway, Australia

Miscellaneous 1: Cyprus, Malta, Romania

Miscellaneous 2: Belgium, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania

Aside from having two very reliable vote givers within its pot, Ireland usually gives Sweden a decent whack of points (so SVT should be pleased). Norway and Australia’s fortunes will depend on what they choose as entries, but all things being equal Australia has perhaps a slightly better shot at qualifying over Norway. 

Russia and Ukraine routinely give each other lots of televote points, and both are supported consistently by both Belarus and Azerbaijan. Having Israel and Cyprus voting should also please Russia; Malta’s presence should please the Azeris. Short of a disaster, Russia will qualify, having all its most reliable Russophone bloc members in its semi-final. Ukraine should be very confident too; probably one of either the Azeris or Belarussians will qualify too. Unless both send weak entries…

In terms of the Yugosphere, the Macedonians, Slovenians, and Croatians will all be a bit bummed: their only reliable linkage here in terms of points is one-way traffic from Slovenia to Croatia. 

Otherwise, Lithuanian will be happy to have 12 televote points from Ireland, but will miss the Polish and Latvian support. Tuesday’s pre-qualified voters are Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Ireland would have preferred that the UK be voting on Tuesday night: in fact, Ireland will need a very strong entry to overcome its nearly complete isolation from reliable supporters.  Belgium will be happy that the Dutch are in their qualification corner, though only a wee bit. The Albanians and Romanians will be happy to have the Italians voting on Tuesday night. 

Second semi-final 14 May

With one more entry that the Tuesday night semi-final 56 per cent of this semi-final’s entries will qualify, which is three per cent less than the first semi-final.

First half

  • Austria
  • Moldova
  • Poland
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Iceland
  • Czech Republic
  • Greece
  • Estonia

Second half

  • Denmark
  • Bulgaria
  • Switzerland
  • Finland
  • Armenia
  • Latvia
  • Georgia
  • Portugal
  • Albania

This semi-final splits between the ninth and tenth entries, but remember: that does not mean Estonia and Denmark. Looking at the pots and how each’s members have been allocated in this semi-final, we get:

Yugosphere: Austria, Serbia, Albania, Switzerland

Russophone: Moldova, Armenia, Georgia

Scandinavian: Iceland, Estonia, Denmark, Finland

Miscellaneous 1: San Marino, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal

Miscellaneous 2: Poland, Czech Republic, Latvia

From the Scandinavian bloc, Denmark and Iceland reliably support one another; Finland and Estonia do, to a somewhat lesser extent. That’s good for qualification odds, since there’s no Sweden to hoover up most of the 12s on offer in the bloc: a relatively even distribution of 12s and 10s within the bloc life all their qualification chances. 

The Russophone pickings are rather meagre in this semi-final. All three delegations have struggled to qualify at times, and there’s not much history of them reliably voting for each other. Each would have preferred to have Russia in their semi-final: Moldova will miss Romania’s support. 

Among the Yugosphere delegations, Albania will miss North Macedonia and Greece (and Italy): Serbia will miss Croatia and Slovenia, but appreciate the Swiss and Austrian love. Austria is a vote giver rather than a vote getter in this pot; ditto Switzerland. OK news for Serbia only, in other words. 

Thursday’s pre-qualified voters are: France, Spain and the United Kingdom. In Miscellaneous Two Poland will be happy to have the Czechs and the UK voting on Thursday. The only bright spot for Miscellaneous One is Portugal having Spain voting on Thursday night.  

Allocation, Not Draw

It’s important to remember that being allocated the second half of the draw only slightly favours entries, in terms of qualification. 

In most semi-finals—since the producer-led draw has been in place—usually four qualifiers are from the first half and six from the second. Some specific slots considered poor for winning a Grand Final (such as third) have a relatively equal chance or producing (or not) a Grand Final qualifier. 

Shortly after the Heads of Delegation meeting in mid-March, we will know the draw performance order for each semi-final. At that point we will be able to substantively analyse the draw performance order, in terms of likely qualification. It’s worth noting that in 2018 Alexander Rybak won his semi-final performing first, only to finish 15th in the Grand Final. 

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