Eurovision 2013: Predictions for semi final 2

This is post is part of a series of posts describing a predictive model for the Eurovision Song Contest. The full set of posts can be found here.


Didn’t we do well?

I think it would be fair to say that the results of the first semi-final were surprising all round. Western Europe and the former Soviet Union both had very strong nights, while the former Yugoslavia managed zero qualifications from four attempts. From the standpoint of the model predictions, the most surprising thing was that Serbia failed to qualify. It’s a little unclear to me why the model was predicting such a high probability for Serbia (they failed to qualify in 2009 as well) but I would have expected that votes from the other former Yugoslavs would push them through. Perhaps these bonds are weakening somewhat with time, or perhaps the slight changes in the voting system have made things more difficult for them. Or maybe nobody liked the song (I quite enjoyed it, but probably wouldn’t have voted for it).

The model managed 6 out of 10 correct qualifications, which doesn’t sound bad, or 2 out of 6 knockouts, which does. In most of these cases, the probabilities were fairly balanced, so we got Belarus (50%), Netherlands (51%) and Ireland (55%) instead of Slovenia (58%), Cyprus (58%) and Croatia (74%). It would have been more surprising if there weren’t a few switches like this. Losing Serbia (91%) for Belgium (46%) seems a bit more serious, but it’s still something that’s going to happen from time to time. Overall, 6 out of 10 is less good than we might have expected, but still not terrible - it’s definitely not a statistically significant failure1.

Another day, another prediction

So, given that we’ve lost one of our most favoured countries (Serbia) and have gained a few surprise qualifiers, how do the winning probabilities change? Obviously, everyone who’s qualified has gained a bit of a bonus. Moldova, particularly, have jumped from respectable also-ran to outside shot. The big winner is obviously Russia, with a strong ex-Soviet showing pushing them into the first place slot. Bookies’ favourites Denmark have leap-frogged hosts Sweden to become the top Scandinavian country. I’ve colour-coded the graph below by qualification status: green have qualified from the first semi-final, purple have yet to qualify, and grey are the automatic qualifiers.

Winning probabilities

The model is confident enough about the qualification prospects of Azerbaijan and Greece that it doesn’t really matter that they’re yet to qualify. Of the automatic qualifiers, it looks like a tussle between established powerhouse and hosts Sweden and Italy, recently returned from a decade in the Eurovision wilderness. Spain, suffering from the lack of their old friends Portugal and Andorra, will not be doing so well.

A lot will now depend on the qualifiers from the second semi-final. If Azerbaijan do qualify, as expected, then they’ll retake Russia’s top spot. If not, the model predicts a straight fight between Russia and Ukraine. However, it’s always possible that some dark horse candidate, particularly from the West, could swoop in and change things completely.

A better tomorrow

So let’s look at tomorrow night’s second semi-final and see who’s going to qualify. This is a larger semi-final (17 rather than 16 contestants) but still only 10 qualification slots.

Qualification probabilities

After the first semi-final I feel rather silly claiming anything is certain, but Greece, Armenia and Azerbaijan look like they’re safer than most. After that there’s a fairly smooth decline in probability: Albania and Romania look pretty good, Norway, Israel and Iceland maybe a little less likely, and Malta and Georgia round things out to ten. According to the model, Switzerland have only a 19% chance of qualification, but given the strong performance from Western Europe in the first semi-final, it would be silly to rule them out completely. The former Yugoslavia’s only hope rests with Macedonia, and having heard the song, I don’t think they’ll be celebrating.

Note that Azerbaijan have a relatively tough semi-final compared to how the model predicts they’ll do in the final. This semi-final is fairly low on former Soviet republics, and one of the four that are here is their old enemy Armenia. Assuming they qualify, they’ll do a lot better when they can get votes from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, etc.

So as an overall prediction, we have:

  • Greece (90%)
  • Armenia (87%)
  • Azerbaijan (84%)
  • Albania (77%)
  • Romania (72%)
  • Norway (68%)
  • Israel (67%)
  • Iceland (66%)
  • Malta (65%)
  • Georgia (60%)

Let’s see how wrong I can be this time, and I leave you with my personal favourite from Tuesday night, the Montenegrin space program.


Next post in the series


  1. p ≈ 0.17

Published: May 15 2013

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