One of the most intriguing things to come out of the semi-final allocation draw back in January was the amount of countries with 100% qualifying records that were drawn into the first semifinal. Armenia, Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Greece have all never failed to qualify from a semifinal since 2004, whilst Norway, Albania, Iceland, and Portugal have all got perfect records since the introduction of two semifinals in 2008. Looking at the form book, that would give you ten qualifiers, but in reality someone has to miss out tonight, surely?
Starting with Armenia, their semifinal record is impressive- having never finished below sixth since their debut in Athens. They’ve drawn position four, which has only seen Ukraine in 2008 and Denmark in 2010 qualify from. Serbia missed out from here in 2009 but would have qualified under 100% televoting. The bookies have them as seventh-favourites to qualify tonight, although last night’s jury rehearsal has had questions asked of the vocals across the websites and blogs.
Turkey are in a funny position tonight. Their worst semifinal placing was 8th in 2006, but in the last two years they’ve finished first and second. Statistically, however, position five is the worst place you could hope to be drawn. From here, only Sweden in 2009 got through, and this position has produced last-place finishes for San Marino in 2008 and Switzerland in 2010. A betting ranking of third-favourites to qualify means some serious play-outs if they don’t make it.
Russia seem to be the odds-on qualifier for everyone. Position seven had only produced one qualifier before last year (Azerbaijan in 2008), but 2010 saw both Serbia and Azerbaijan (again) go through from here. Russia are second-favourites to go through in the betting, and with a reasonably polished performance and ‘friends’ in this semifinal, they should be more than comfortable.
Georgia are the Caucus anomaly in terms of recent records, having only made the top ten for the first time last year. Their semifinal results are 8th, 5th, and 3rd from 2007 to last year. Position nine has given three qualifications out of six since 2008, whilst the betting has them in 10th place. Early rehearsal reports about this were not overly impressive, however in last night’s show they appeared to pull something out of the bag- but the general feeling is that this could go either way, and we may have out first “100% country” casualty here.
Azerbaijan would seem to be the country you’d bet your house on tonight to qualify. Position 18 has thrown up a qualifier on three of four occasions since 2008, with only FYR Macedonia in the same year missing out. They are the betting favourite, and qualifying across the board on internet polls. This would be a huge shock if they don’t go through.
And finally, Greece. Based on the draw, they should be through; based on the betting, they are fifth favourites; and almost all the polls having them going into the final as well. Reports around the web seem to all point to how good the ethnic part of the song is, and tat the rap is somewhat out of place. All things considered, Greece not coming out of an envelope tonight would be a huge upset.
Of the perfect records since 2008, Albania are the most marginal of them all, with the betting having them at position 11 and many offering odds of straight evens on them going through. Norway are 6th with bookmakers going into tonight, and it’s worth remembering that in semifinals since 2008 position two has a better record than any other in the opening nine. Iceland have the draws best statistical position, as no country has ever missed out from 14 since 2008. They are, however, 12th in the betting- so there’s some money to be made here if they go through. And then there’s Portugal- 18th in the betting, buy only Malta in 2008 have missed out from 16th on.
A final point worth noting tonight is that the betting shows six of the qualifiers coming from the first half of this semifinal, or seven if you count Finland in the first half. There has never been a split of qualifiers in favour of the first half- so there could be a little bit of history tonight.