Support ESC Insight on Patreon

Winners And Losers In The Eurovision 2018 Semi Final Draw Written by and on January 30, 2018 | 15 Comments

Now that the draw has been made for the Semi Finals of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018, delegations can start booking hotels, flights, arrival times, and the other minutia needed to attend the Song Contest in Lisbon. And while we only broadly know four songs so far, the battlefields that the 37 Semi Finalists will compete on have been drawn up and it’s possible to look at the lie of the land… So let’s do just that.

Be in no doubt, the delegations hungry for the win will be looking at the draw and using this to build up PR campaigns, to target resources on fans, street teams, television appearances, social media sites, and all the other tricks that you can bring to bear in a media campaign with a fixed deadline.

It also means that we can see which countries already have a slight advantage, and which are walking out to the stump with a broken cricket bat.

But first, a recap of the actual draw:

EBU's Lisbon 2018 Semi Final Draw (image:

EBU’s Lisbon 2018 Semi Final Draw (image:

Semi Final 1

Top Half:
Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Israel, and Lithuania.
Bottom Half:
Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Macedonia, Greece, Ireland, and Switzerland.

Semi Final 2

Top Half:
Australia, Denmark, Norway, Moldova, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, and The Netherlands.
Bottom Half:
Hungary, Georgia, Malta, Montenegro, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, and Ukraine.

And for those of you keeping track of the votes of the Big 5 and our hosts; Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom will vote in Semi Final 1; while France, Italy, and Germany will vote in Semi Final 2.


Finland: All The Boxes Ticked

Thanks to some quick thinking from YLE, the Finnish broadcaster switched from a full selection to a nominated artist. This of course leads to the question of who will spend time to apply next year and risk being usurped by Mikael Saari wanting a similar set up to Saara Aalto – but that’s something for after Lisbon.

Saara’s career over the last eighteen months has been very much focused on the UK and Ireland thanks to her run to second place in The X-Factor, going from ‘the kooky one from Finland’ to ‘can we adopt her’ in the mainstream media. With both the UK and Ireland voting in heat one, alongside close musical neighbours Estonia and Iceland, Finland heads to Lisbon with a solid foundation of existing support.

It wouldn’t surprise us if Saara gets more coverage in the UK tabloid press than the winner of the UK selection.

Bulgaria And Austria: A Modern Partnership

With the power of Symphonix (a Vienna based musical production company) working with BNT to give Bulgaria their last two placings, and now Cesar Sampson, who has been the backing singer for Bulgaria for the past two year, fronting the Austrian entry this year – it was important for both countries to be in the same Semi Final to continue this modern partnership. There’s a slight added bonus for Austria of having both Switzerland and Czech Republic in Semi Final 1 as well.

Performing on Monday and Tuesday also is an advantage, should you make it through to the Grand Final, because you then get a slight breather before having to do it all again on the Friday and Saturday. With Bulgaria in the first half and Austria in the second half of the draw that mixes things up a little bit, but could it be that Bulgaria will provide a dynamic and colourful show opener?

Ireland: Sneaking In

Ireland managed a streak of luck too, with the United Kingdom being able to vote for them, assuming the Irish artist choice resonates with the UK audience. If RTE play it right they could certainly garner points from the UK which may see their first qualification since 2013 – being in the larger Semi Final slightly reduced their chance but being in the second half could balance that out. As it stands Ireland could still sneak into Grand Final, it very much depends on singer and song choice.

Montenegro: Will Take All The Help It Has Been Given

Montenegro also managed a small win from yesterday’s draw as it was drawn in the bottom half of the second Semi Final, and also being in the same voting mix as Serbia & Slovenia. Neither of these are big wins, but for Montenegro any slight advantage needs to be capitalised on to try and get the Saturday night ticket. In a perfect world Albania would have been in the same Semi Final, but you can’t have everything!


Latvia: The Lonely Baltic

Looking over the countries in Semi Final 2, there’s a glut of reliable qualifiers in the shape of Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Romania and Poland. Below them are countries who arguably ‘sneak’ into Saturday night with an especially strong strong or performance. Out of the gate a number of countries look isolated without any major diaspora to kick start their campaigns, but the biggest worry must be Latvia with its Baltic brothers all over in Semi Final 1.

Malta, San Marino, And Georgia: Missing Their Friends

Also losing out its normal friends of the UK and Ireland is Malta. Along with San Marino and Georgia, the Mediterranean island looks to be on shaky ground in terms of votes but it has a small advantage of Italy voting as part of Semi Final 2. Unfortunately the votes that are going to be drawn up by the big hitters above leaves Malta very little space to sneak in and grab enough to get over the line.

San Marino would have wanted to be in the same Semi Final as Austria because of the partnership with Global Rockstar in Vienna and Georgia stands alone for the Caucus region; whilst Armenia and Azerbaijan are sure to give each other 0 points, both of them usually have a few points for their Georgian neighbours which this year will be missing.

Scandinavia: Splitting The Region

Let’s just put Sweden, Norway, and Denmark together here. Even though Sweden has an almost perfect qualification record, and the numbers ever so slightly favour SVT, when these three are grouped together the votes between them become a little bit more fractured resulting in lower than average scores. With Semi Final 2 having more of the big hitters than Semi Final 1 any drag on your score will be felt more keenly on Thursday than Tuesday.

Sweden does get the bottom half ticket, so is Norway or Denmark is going to push the other onto a sticky wicket?

Australia: Needing An Audience Connection

Our biggest concern over all the draw is for Australia. There are not enough years of voting patterns to be able to comfortably make a prediction here. Australia struggled in the televote last year and was kept afloat by the juries. A first half draw is also concerning unless the already nominated Jessica Mauboy has an outstanding show opener in her back pocket – but in amongst Norway, Denmark, Serbia and Russia, Australia could get lost in the mix.

The obvious answer would be to prioritise the pre-party season and try to get Jess on TV in France, Italy, and also try to remind the Danish and Dutch audiences that she was on stage in Copenhagen, which was the year that the Netherlands also did outstandingly well – playing up the ‘feel good factor’. But with commitments to the Commonwealth Games and filming on The Secret Daughter promotional opportunities will be limited.

Final Thoughts From January

Whatever happens on the nights of the two Semi Finals, as always they’ll be nights to remember – tickets to all the Semi Final shows are on sale now, the sole authorised ticket agent is Blue Ticket tickets bought from anywhere else may not be authentic and you may end up disappointed.

Contributions from John Lucas, Sharleen Wright, Lisa-Jayne Lewis, and Ewan Spence.

About The Author: Ewan Spence

British Academy (BAFTA) nominated broadcaster and writer Ewan Spence is the voice behind The Unofficial Eurovision Song Contest Podcast and one of the driving forces behind ESC Insight. Having had an online presence since 1994, he is a noted commentator around the intersection of the media, internet, technology, mobility and how it affects us all. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, his work has appeared on the BBC, The Stage, STV, and The Times. You can follow Ewan on Twitter (@ewan) and Facebook (

Read more from this author...

You Can Support ESC Insight on Patreon

ESC Insight's Patreon page is now live; click here to see what it's all about, and how you can get involved and directly support our coverage of your Eurovision Song Contest.

Share This Post

If You Like This...

Have Your Say

15 responses to “Winners And Losers In The Eurovision 2018 Semi Final Draw”

  1. Shai says:

    Welcome back 😀

    1. Israel, Ireland and Lithuania- 4th year in the row they are in the same semi. Israel qualification score, with them in the same semi, is 100%

    2. Semi 1 has less big hitters. Everyone has a chance, if they have a good song.

    3. Semi 2 is a hard one. 13 countries will battle for the remaining 4 or 5 places(assuming the big hitters all go through). Expect a bloodbath

  2. Ewan Spence says:

    Shai, the word ‘Bloodbath’ is going on my ‘Eurovision Commentators Bingo Card’

  3. Eurojock says:

    Looks like a good opportunity for Switzerland to qualify this year, especially given the strength of their national final songs.

  4. Shai says:

    @Ewan-Glad I could help😉

    Semi 2- good song isn’t enough. All ingredients must be top noch. You f**k up one of the elements and you are out.

    Eurovision Commentators Bingo card🤔

  5. Shai says:

    A small editing: Spain is mentioned as voting in both semi’s.
    In semi 2 this should be Germany instead.

  6. Shai says:

    Sorry, not spamming,just paying attention too late:UK voting on semi 1 may harm Polish diaspora voting on semi 2.

    Not 100% sure, so I’ll leave this to someone who has access to the statistics.

  7. Martin says:

    I have to say that when I saw the title of your article, I did groan but there are some valid points and conclusions here…

    The main one here for me is Finland hitting gold with UK/Ireland/Estonia/Iceland – what odds for a Finnish win in the SF?

  8. Ewan Spence says:

    My bad, it’s a pretty straight ahead and obvious headline, but my mind has been elsewhere!

  9. Poet says:

    Excellent points made here. I agree that Latvia and Australia may be the biggest losers here. Having said that, it does depend what song both countries will send.

  10. Nick says:

    That first half of semi 2 is where the issues are. Looking at the past five years, you’ve got Russia, Romania, Australia on 100% qualification, Norway and The Netherlands on 80% and you’ve also got Serbia, Denmark and a Kirkorov backed Moldova. That’s the worst half for anyone at this stage.

  11. 4porcelli says:

    Not sure this is actually a bad draw for our Aussie friends – they do seem to get quite a bit of televote love from the Scandinavian countries if my memory serves right and above all they’re a jury favorite (even with last year’s atrocity). Somewhat beside the point but since you mentioned it – what’s The secret daughter?

  12. […] of all, Australia. And for this one, I would like to quote ESCInsight’s article on the draw, in which Ewan Spence and Lisa-Jayne Lewis […]

  13. Evan Davis says:

    The Secret Daughter was an Australian musical drama. It wasn’t too bad except for Jessica Mauboy breaking into song for no apparent reason. It was basically a platform to flog her album of cover songs. Season 2 aired late last year and it has since been axed, so Jessica won’t have any Secret Daughter commitments this year.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if she pops up at the Opening or Closing Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in April (which consists of very few Eurovision countries…. UK, Australia, Malta… any others?)

  14. Lisa-Jayne Lewis says:

    Cyprus is the only other commonwealth/esc crossover country!

Leave a Reply