The results of the semi-finals are sealed and hidden away until after the Eurovision winner has been decided during the grand final. The thinking is that knowing the results of who won the semis before the final may influence voting — and betting.

And while those who know the results of the semis ahead of time may have an advantage when it comes to beating the betting agencies, that’s not always the case. Since the introduction of the semi-finals, there have been four winners who did not manage to win their semi. In two other instances the eventual winners did not compete in the semis. Can you remember who? Let’s have a look and a listen…

UKRAINE 2004 — RUSLANA

Eurovision held its very first semi-final in 2004. It featured 22 countries competing for 10 spots in the final, where they joined the Top 10 finishers from the 2003 contest and the four automatic qualifiers at the time (the so-called Big 4 consisted of France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom).

Serbia & Montenegro’s Zeljko Joksimovic won the semi with his Balkan ballad (cue the wooden flute) “Lane Moje”. He beat hip-shaking, loin-cloth wearing Ruslana by seven points. In the final Zeljko earned exactly the same number of points —263 — as he did in the semi. But as Ruslana beat her oversized stick and threw off her fur, she managed to up her tally to 280. Interestingly, France, Poland and Russia did not vote in the qualification round, but they did vote in the grand final. Could the addition of two of Ukraine’s neighbours have made the difference?

RUSSIA 2008 — DIMA BILAN

At the 2008 contest in Belgrade, eventual winner Dima Bilan was surpassed by not one, but two countries — Greece and Armenia.

Greek-American singer Kalomira earned 21 more points than Dima, owing to her fierce dance number “Secret Combination” and her ability to shake those hips like no other. And Armenia’s Sirusho edged Dima out by four points.

Unaware of the result, Dima kept his eyes on the prize and, in one of the most beloved editions of Eurovision ever, managed to beat second-place Ukraine by 42 points. Kalomira and Sirusho had to settle for third and fourth.

AZERBAIJAN 2011 — Ell & Nikki

And once again it’s Greece that slays a future victor in the semi-final, as Loukas Giorkas feat. Stereo Mike outperformed Azerbaijan’s Ell & Nikki. The Greeks’ ethnic song “Watch My Dance” squeaked ahead by 11 points in the semi. But the wheels came off the bus in the final, and they fell from first to seventh, finishing behind Azerbaijan, Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, Denmark and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

UKRAINE 2016 — JAMALA

The most recent case is, of course, Jamala. In the grand final she didn’t win the jury vote, nor the televote…and as we later learned she didn’t win the semi-final either.

Instead it was Australia’s Dami Im who filled the “Sound of Silence” with stunning staging and her powerhouse vocals, nipping Jamala to first place in the second semi. But in the grand final Jamala had her revenge, finishing second with the jury and televoters, which was enough to win overall by just 23 points.

In every instance above, the eventual winner hails from an Eastern European country — Azerbaijan, Russia, and Ukraine (twice). As has been pointed out countless times by countless commentators, these countries may benefit from bloc voting in the final, where all countries are allowed to vote (rather than just countries competing in the same semi-final). Surely the addition of neighbours voting in the final helps, if even just a little.

Automatic Qualifiers

There are two more instances where the victors didn’t win the semi-final. That’s because they didn’t face the challenge of qualification.

In 2010 Germany’s Lena qualified automatically to the final as a member of the Big 4 (Italy hadn’t returned to the contest yet). And in 2005 Greece was granted a place in the final due to its top ten placing the year before, thus allowing Helena Paparizou to bypass the elimination round.

So what do you think? Are these worthy winners? Did you prefer any of the semi-final victors to the eventual winner? Let us know in the comments box below

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Nick
Nick
3 years ago

i was wondering why the writer of the article talked about ruslana and jamala so negatively… and then i saw that he’s russian…

Aaron GR
Aaron GR
3 years ago

2011 was the first year that my favorite song in the final actually won. (After Norway and Israel failed their semis.) Running Scared is a lush, sophisticated pop song – and it’s bizarre that it won, especially with Nikki mangling her vocal. I don’t buy that cheating put them on top, but I do agree it’s a weird winner.

Robyn and Pollaski make excellent, interesting points here. I love this post!

Sash
Sash
3 years ago

Well, you forgot to mention that Jamala did win her semi final televoting. Though it was not enough to pass Australia, still that means that Australia was pulled to the first place by juries, while losing in televoting once again

Alenn
Alenn
3 years ago

Sure, Armenian song wasn’t that good but still, I find it astonishing that both Armenia and Turkey didn’t qualify and Switzerland did… In the end, the only country who could benefit from massive diaspora voting in the final was Azerbaijan. It’s so weird, like the whole universe conspired in helping Azerbaijan win!

Mark Beckenbreur
Mark Beckenbreur
3 years ago

Azaad: ‘Azerbaijan won the televote in 2011 because Turkey failed to qualify, so the diaspora and ..’ There is another reason – failure of Armenia. They didn’t take it seriously that year and they have paid a price for that.. They paid it twice – in 2011 and in 2012. If only they had a decent song and strong performer they would have easily make it to the final.. With Armenia in the final, Azerbuyjan would surely miss at least 20 points. And Turkey in the final would have put those singing goats somewhere in the bottom of top 10.… Read more »

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
3 years ago

Steve: Cheers, sweetie. I’ve loved the lively debate that’s been going on here – I’ve learned a lot. And I’m super proud that we’ve all been able to do it in a civil way! 😀

an esc fan
an esc fan
3 years ago

Craziness and tackiness of Dima Bilan is the reason why many love ESC. I can’t forget his genuin reaction when going on stage to take the trophy from Marija Serifovic, he yelled ”Mariiijjjjaaaaaaa”. Sounded like he was looking for her all his life.

Steve
Steve
3 years ago

Robyn: thanks, darling for the response. I see we disagree on this, but anyway I’d like to be thankful for choosing very interesting topics. There is always so much to talk about. I personally enjoy the discussions on here.

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
3 years ago

Steve: “Given all these factors, I strongly disagree with you that Azerbaijan was a clear winner.” Azerbaijan won because there was literally no other song that appealed to *both* the jury and televoters. Italy, Denmark and Ireland didn’t have enough televote support, while Sweden, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Georgia and Germany didn’t have enough jury support. This left Azerbaijan as the only one with support from both. Even without Azerbaijan’s alleged “bonus points”, the appeal of “Running Scared” was enough that it still would have won, just because it was the only song that was generally liked by both… Read more »

loving_ya_harder
loving_ya_harder
3 years ago

I loved Azerbaijan 2011, I don’t get this hatred, this is a song contest, so the best song wins, not the best country. It’s not good to accuse them on cheating just because you didn’t like the entry or even the country. Also Italy winning the entire contest would be ridiculous tbh (my opinion).

Pollaski
Pollaski
3 years ago

@Riva

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess its more of an LGBT rights thing than a Armenia/Azerbaijan thing.

Riva
Riva
3 years ago

@Jonas, even with proven crimes you can’t just put a whole country in a dirty corner like you do from the very start. Unless you’re an armenian puppet who has a fate to hate it’s neighbours for whatever reason. Don’t ignore commenters who backed the song, there were enough here for you to narrow your emotional condition.
And I guess last three years prooved that Azerbaijan cured it’s rigging abilities…

Alenn
Alenn
3 years ago

@Ospero:

Good point! And also in 1993, Slovenia won the “Qualification to Millstreet” semifinal, but only finished in 22nd place in the final. The contest was won by Ireland, who didn’t have to get through semi-finals.

Ospero
Ospero
3 years ago

While we’re at it, might as well mention the 1996 contest, which had a sort of semifinal, except that it wasn’t a public vote or even a jury vote based on performances, but a jury vote based on recordings of the songs (except the host country’s song, Norway’s “I evighet”). That preliminary round (meant to eliminate seven countries of the 30 that had expressed interest that year) was won by Sweden, who came third in the final, behind Ireland and Norway.

Jonas
Jonas
3 years ago

Hmm, I didn’t realize that Turkey & Russia had such strong cultural bonds with Swedish hit factories. I happen to think that yes, they earned some of their points, but it was the cheating what swung it. I know it in my bones. Anyway, let’s agree that whatever about this contest – it’s the ordinary citizens of Azerbaijan that are the real victims of this disgustingly amoral regime. Peace out.

Alex
Alex
3 years ago

OK Ukraine was one of the big entries in 2004 and it is still memorable. Russia’s 2008 entry is not memorable (maybe the ice skating?) but Bilan is a star in soviet countries. Still, Ukraine and Greece would have been better winners. Regarding Azerbaijan, this is a big mystery on how they won. Sweden won the televoting (not Azerbaijan as the votes from San Marino are counted as televoting and Azerbaijan got more points there) and surprisingly Azerbaijan was placed too high in jury voting. Maltese jury surely cheated (or their televoting was manipulated)… so weird to give 12p for… Read more »

Pollaski
Pollaski
3 years ago

@Jonas You’re partially right. If Azerbaijan cheated in even one country, there should be a DQ, both of the Azeris, and, if there was any involvement with the other country in an official capacity (ie, judges), that country should be DQed too. With both possibly facing a multi-year suspension. Hell, I’m not even going to argue that Azerbaijan didn’t cheat. Getting four repeating 12s from Malta, and scoring consistently well with San Marino, another tiny country that would be relatively easy to manipulate, is fishy as all hell. Not to mention the 2013 allegations. The problem is, it can’t be… Read more »

Polegend Godgarina
Polegend Godgarina
3 years ago

Kalomira deserved to win 100x more than Dima. He’s a great guy, but his song was bland and his performance was an overdramatic mess. He only won because that year was full of hot girls singing dance songs in short dresses (in fact, Ani Lorak, Kalomira and Sirusho ended 2nd, 3rd and 4th), while Dima was the only female voters’ magnet I guess.

Ryan
Ryan
3 years ago

@Pollaski

Rigged or not rigged,Turkey and Russia still would’ve given them over 3 points each so that equals to atleast a +2 point victory

Jonas
Jonas
3 years ago

P.S. If you accept even one of those results are the results of cheating (hi, Malta) -that in itself is enough to warrant disqualification, making the result null and void.

Jonas
Jonas
3 years ago

Regional bias or bribery – either way it wasn’t on merit. 10 from San Marino? I mean, c’mon…let’s not be naive, or underestimate the lengths that the Azerbaijan regime went to snag hosting duties. Sending agents to small islands and voting regions to spam the phonlines? Bribing jurors? It all sounds so ridiculously over the top, I grant you – but if Iingering doubts remain over the 2011 result, they only have themselves to blame. You can’t fault me for that.

Pollaski
Pollaski
3 years ago

@Steve @Jonas “but if for now we just take the three 12s that Azerbaijan received – Malta, Turkey, Russia – are you seriously telling me that those top marks were based solely on merit? I mean… I just can’t accept that. Which means if we discount just those 36 points, it brings Azerbaijan’s final score to 185. Four below Italy on 189.” Oh, boy… here we go down this rabbit hole. Steve mentioned this a bit, but digging around a bit, you can see that Malta gave 12 points to Azerbaijan for FOUR consecutive years, from 2010-2013. AFter that, they’ve… Read more »

Zebb
Zebb
3 years ago

This mentioned measuring between Azerbaijnan, UK and Sweden 2011 keeps me smiling even now. Weren’t they all shades of northen-europe pop/electro? That year got a bunch of similar songs, just like 2008’s situation between Arm/Ukr/Greece with mentioning that in 2008 girls sung better! I’m not standing against issues with Azerbaijan bribery, but I actually loved how their song was combined with staging, even that irritating Nikki couldn’t destroy impression. Voted once for them with Italy though my vote favourites were Germany & Serbia.

Pollaski
Pollaski
3 years ago

@Racal @Victor Victor has a point: the larger a field is, the higher it is to keep up a ridiculous average. So while the Brother Hood of Man’s 9.647’s is still ridiculous, I just don’t think it measures up to Rybak’s similar number, given that Rybak was against nine more countries in the final, and had to weather twice the number of voting countries. We can argue over which is better til we’re all blue in the face, but I think we can all agree that if you average over 9 points per country in Eurovision, you’re doing something insanely… Read more »

Jonas
Jonas
3 years ago

I can’t compete with Pollaski’s impressive analysis at the moment, but if for now we just take the three 12s that Azerbaijan received – Malta, Turkey, Russia – are you seriously telling me that those top marks were based solely on merit? I mean… I just can’t accept that. Which means if we discount just those 36 points, it brings Azerbaijan’s final score to 185. Four below Italy on 189. That’s just peeling back one layer of irregularities. I would have been happy to see Italy win, as I love that song – though I agree the discrepancy with the… Read more »

kris
kris
3 years ago

The spread of points shows that it was not possible that one country could have bought points from others…… not saying that they are the best winners but they are definitely not the worst entry to have won.The competition was tight that year.No clear favourites. If “only teardrops” and “euphoria” and “satellite” were entered in the same year ….again the points of other country would have dispersed and an east European country enjoying bloc voting could have won despite three strong entries.

Julie
Julie
3 years ago

Didn’t Russia receive the highest score of anyone in either semi-final this year, and yet end up in third place in the final? Hmmmm…

Avstriya
Avstriya
3 years ago

This is a story of bloc voting. In years of mediocricy, mediocre songs from the East win with their bloc power.

Cutie
Cutie
3 years ago

Lol of course Azerbaijan didn’t win their semi final, shouldn’t have won the grand final, always buying votes ????

Steve
Steve
3 years ago

Hi everyone. Robyn: I cannot place the screenshot here, but I’ll come up with the link a bit later to prove that we’ve discussed it at least once and you had the same point. I think that Eric’s Popular was the best one. Italy was ok. We had there some other good songs tho like Greece, UK’s Blue and Ukraine. I think that the UK should have won the contest or at least Eric. The latter’s song was a bit catchy. But had Blue represented any other Eastern European country they would have won. I think they have been cheated… Read more »

Victor
Victor
3 years ago

@Pollaski and @Racal , to measure the success of an ESC winner, shouldn’t you also take into account the number of participants in the final? So, even if Brotherhood of Man had the highest percentage of the total points awarded in the night, they competed against only 17 other countries in the final. While, let’s say, Mans Zelmerlow, had a lower percentage of points, but had to compete against 26 other countries. This means it was more difficult in his year to get a higher percentage of points. You factor in that into the equation and Mans’ win has more… Read more »

an esc fan
an esc fan
3 years ago

I like countries that appreciate ESC and sees it as an opportunity to evolve economically and to simply promote themselves overall, but to be onest about Azerbaijan, I think that they never stop to buy what they can, every year. I really do belive that they do that each year, and 2011 was the time when also LUCK was by their side. They will try, hoping that, maybe, next year luck will do half of the job (like in 2011).

Robyn Gallagher
Admin
3 years ago

Pollaski: Thanks for all that analysis! The voting spread in 2011 really was so unusual!

Racal
Racal
3 years ago

@Pollaski: I read your comment too quickly, we are actually saying the same thing. Sorry about that. 🙂

Racal
Racal
3 years ago

@Pollaski: Dividing the number of points per voting country means that you “erase” the effect of the high number of participating countries. That’s why Alexander Rybak is actually not the “best” winner: Brotherhood of Man in 1976 scored more points per voting country than him (despite scoring way less total points, of course).

So it doesn’t matter that there were a lot of participating countries in 2011, that’s exactly why it’s useful to divide the total points to analyse the result. Azerbuyjan’s win in 2011 is the weakest in the history of the contest.

an esc fan
an esc fan
3 years ago

I know that I am the only one with that opinion, but I prefer ”Running Scared” over ”Euphoria”. Never liked Euphoria because seems a song created for only one word, and the chorus ends right after she says it. So, i’ve said it, and I know nobody agrees with me.

Maya G
Maya G
3 years ago

I think it’s worth mentioning that Jamala is an exception here because she did win her semi final with the televoters, and was dropped to 2nd place because the juries only gave her 3rd place.

Daniel
Daniel
3 years ago

Thanks for working all that out Pollaski, I really enjoyed reading it aha! I agree, Azerbaijan was and is one of the weakest winners both statistically and song-wise. Its around my personaly 20th.

Pollaski
Pollaski
3 years ago

Robbyn’s hit the nail on the head for 2011. Just a look at the voting results shows that Azerbaijan’s win came about from there being a hugely divisive voting base that they just came out on top. TWENTY countries got 12 points in 2011. Out of 26. That’s freaking absurd. By comparison, 13 countries got the douze in 2012, 13 in 2013, 12 in 2014, and 12 in 2015. Going back to complete the “two semifinal era”, 16 in 2010, 14 in 2009, 17 in 2008. In addition, as Robbyn said, the most 12’s any country got was 5, with… Read more »

Esc84
Esc84
3 years ago

I recommend the winning song(except this year) to one of my friends every years, the only song reamains in her SD card is

Believe – Dima bilan

Alenn
Alenn
3 years ago

Eric Saade should have won in 2011, he had a super catchy song that screamed “winner”… If only he could hit just one single note right!

johanleekens
johanleekens
3 years ago

3 of those 4 are very controversial, it’s quite interesting

Steve
Steve
3 years ago

I also liked “Running Scared”. Was surprised about it winning, too. Especially since the female singer was so extremely terrible.

Steve
Steve
3 years ago

Dima Bilan – one of Eurovisoon’s worst songs to have won in my opinion. Terrible song.

Nickc
Nickc
3 years ago

Jonas running scared was my favorite too. Closely followed by Denmark, Bosnia and Italy. I did not like Sweden or Ireland, and I still dont

DenizNL
DenizNL
3 years ago

Azerbaijan was my favourite in 2011. At that time I didn’t really follow it outside of the contest, so I didn’t know people didn’t like it.

Ariso Light
Ariso Light
3 years ago

So every time Ukraine won the contest, they did not win their semi final.

Roelof Meesters
Roelof Meesters
3 years ago

I was really happy when Jamala won, because Australia was only my 12th, and Russia my 16th, and Ukraine my winner.

Azaad
Azaad
3 years ago

Azerbaijan won the televote in 2011 because Turkey failed to qualify, so the diaspora and Turkey themselves flocked to vote for another Turkic country which they share close cultural connections with. And while I abhor the country’s human rights record, they staged their entry well- managing to fill the stage while being intimate, and the live vocals were okay (compared to Eric they were downright brilliant :P)