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Winners And Losers Of The 2020 Semi Final Draw Written by on January 28, 2020 | 1 Comment

With the draw for the Rotterdam 2020 Semi Finals now complete, delegations can start booking flights, hotels, arrival times, freight, and everything else needed to enter the Eurovision Song Contest. As for the community, it’s time for the ESC Insight Team to look over who has the edge to qualify, who’s in trouble, and get a feel of the upcoming Song Contest.

We now know the countries who will be performing in which Semi Final for the Eurovision Song Contest 2020. Following the Allocation Draw, we can begin another chapter of the Rotterdam story. As a reminder, here is the draw:

Semi Final One

Top Half: Australia, Belarus, Ireland, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Russia, Slovenia, and Sweden
Bottom Half: Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Israel, Malta, Norway, Romania, and Ukraine.
Also Voting: Italy, Germany, and The Netherlands.

Semi Final Two

Top Half: Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Iceland, Poland, Moldova, San Marino, and Serbia.
Bottom Half: Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Portugal, and Switzerland.
Also Voting: France, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

We’re In Safe Hands

First up, the obvious winner in all of this is the combination of AVROTROS, NOS, and NPO. The production of the Semi Final Allocation Draw is the first chance for the public (and the delegations) to get a feel of the style and production values from the host broadcaster.

It looks like we are in safe hands for May.

This year’s logo has been cropping up in YouTube videos and static graphics since it was announced in late November. Now we’ve seen it in animated action. From the individual flag colours that were seen as the Big 5 were allocated to a Semi Final for voting, through the flag bursts as country names were filled into the Semi Final slots, to the banners and branding around the event, the integration of the polar graph of debut years is both adaptable and memorable.

We also got a number of VT clips from our hosts. The discussion with previous winners if they could remember where they were in the running order shows off knowledge and passion for previous editions of the Song Contest; even if we don’t get the full running order until late March, and organisers are adamant that running order does not affect the final result.

The other memorable montage was dedicated to Jon Ola Sand. Rotterdam 2020 will be his final Contest as Executive Supervisor and likely the last time we will hear “Take it away” from the scrutineers’ desk. As well as the passion for the Contest, there’s going to be a playfulness mixed in with the broadcasts as well.

It’s also worth noting that host Jan Smit threw in an off the cuff ”’sorry Jon Ola” when he said “Take it away!” during the draw. Improvisation and awareness in the hosting team is key to making the audience feel comfortable and engaged. That’s a bonus win right there.

Past Form As A Guide To Qualification

Right then, let’s have a look at some numbers. Although we have still to hear the songs, past performance can be a partial guide to the 2020 results. Each delegation has a strong influence on the presentation, preparation and promotion of a song, which has an impact on the points performance in the Semi Finals. There’s a reason that the community looks towards Sweden to qualify and San Marino to struggle.

The two countries that retain a 100 percent qualification record – Australia and Ukraine – have both been drawn in Semi Final 1 (although they are respectively in the top and bottom half of the running order). It’s also worth noting that Australia and Ukraine are joined by Sweden, Cyprus, and Israel in having 100 percent records in the last five Semi Finals. Looking at the rest of the pack, the countries in Semi Final one have more successful qualifying records than those in Semi Final Two.

Let’s call it now, the community are going to label the first show as ‘The Semi Final Of Death‘.

Semi Final Two looks to be a lot more open. In terms of recent performance you have to look at Denmark and Bulgaria, both with three qualifications from their last three appearances, as the front runners. Looking at the overall records, there’s a strong block of countries with solid qualifying records, namely Armenia Greece, Serbia, and to a certain extent Moldova. Austria and Iceland are close behind. Following that it’s pretty much wide open.

Georgia and Latvia have the weakest qualification records in recent years, and both are in the bottom half of the second Semi Final. Both should feel confident they have a chance of making it to Saturday.

If Semi Final One is where we expect some big names to fall, Semi Final Two is where we can expect more countries to feel they have of sneaking an unexpected qualification. There’s also some fun to have in the smaller details.

Last year saw ‘Arcade’ win the Grand Final without winning the jury vote (which went to North Macedonia) or the televote (which went to Norway). There’s a certain karmic power to opening Semi Final 1 with the Jury Winner, and closing with the Televote Winner… and just to add a cherry, The Netherlands will be voting in this Semi Final as well.

Looking at the classic pairings, the Eurovision community has been denied pretty much all the notable combinations popping up in the Semi Finals. Greece and Cyprus have been split up. Azerbaijan and Armenia have been split up. Romania and Moldova have been split up. Poland and Ireland have been split up.

We still have Greece and Finland though. They’ve been drawn together for the eleventh year running.

The Power Of Couples

We have very few songs confirmed for May, so some of the more interesting combinations at the moment may not happen, but let’s note them down anyway.

In terms of voting partnerships, Lake Malawi’s Albert Černý is still in the running to represent Poland. With the Czech Republic in the same Semi Final, there could be some friendly voting on the cards.

Belarus and Iceland’s National Finals both have ethereal songs in the running which are getting a lot of love from the community. Assuming both Iva’s ‘Oculis Videre’ and Chakras’ ‘La-ley-la‘ qualify, the delegations will be happy they are in different Semi Finals so they cannot split the ‘Nocturne’ vote.

Another heavily dependant on qualification is the possibility of Georgia being able to vote for ‘Georgia On My Mind‘ if it makes it through Estonia’s Eesti Laul.

Unfortunately the admittedly small potential of having Assol and We All Poop running back to back (assuming they both qualify for May) will have to wait for the Grand Final, as Ukraine and the Czech Republic are in different Semi Finals.

The Myths and Legends of Jon Ola Sand

Finally, every country in Semi Final Two will be quietly confident. The Big 5 and our Hosts have been allocated to the Semi Final they will be voting in, and the United Kingdom has drawn Semi Final 2. The United Kingdom has voted on the Semi Final with the ultimate winner of the Eurovision Song Contest every year since 2011.

Which means you should feel sorry for Germany. This is the first year since 2010 that Germany has not voted in the second Semi Final. Moving away from the side of the table where the talismanic United Kingdom is voting is an unwelcome switch.

And in the event of needing a tie-breaker, the hosts of the Semi Final Allocation Draw pointed out just how heavy the Insignia Key Chain is getting. I suggest this is buried, and whichever delegation can remove the insignia from the rock will be the ruler of Eurovision… at least for the next year.

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 (

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