In May, after waiting nearly 50 years, Portugal finally nabbed its first win at Eurovision. It was, until Salvador Sobral’s victory, the nation that had been waiting the longest for a win. In fact, Portugal had never finished in the Top 5 before, and they had been eliminated in the semi-finals on their previous four attempts.
Portugal’s win has no doubt given other long-suffering nations hope that they too can see a reversal of their fortunes in the contest. So, in honour of all those who have tried and repeatedly failed, we take a look at the ten countries that have participated the most times without a win.
The sunny island of Cyprus has participated in Eurovision 34 times. Despite the inevitably high points that its artists receive from neighbour Greece, the country has never finished higher than fifth place. They achieved that in 1982 — in only their second year competing. And they matched the result two more times, in 1997 and in 2004 (with British-Cypriot singer Lisa Andreas). In your mind, should Cyprus have already won their first Eurovision trophy?
Heading west we find another island that’s been stranded from victory: Malta. The Maltese have been present at Eurovision for 30 years. After finishing last on their first two appearances, they slowly found their rhythm. In 2002 Ira Losco — who blew gold dust during her performance of “7th Wonder” — finished just twelve points behind the winner Marin N from Latvia. Three years later Chiara also finished as runner-up. Should one of these Eurovision queens have actually taken the contest to Malta?
Having neighbours can certainly help you win Eurovision. Sadly, the third country on the list is also our third island. Iceland, like Malta, has taken part for 30 years. They also finished as runner-up on two occasions. In 1999 pre-contest favourite Selma finished behind Sweden’s Charlotte Nielsen (now Perrelli). And ten years later Yohanna came second to Alexander Rybak — who nabbed the most 12 points in history en route to victory. From those highs Iceland now finds itself in the doldrums. It hasn’t made the final since 2014.
In 1989 Yugoslavia scored its only Eurovision win. Its participant — the rock band Riva — hailed from Croatia, which achieved independence in 1991. A year later, Yugoslavia hosted Eurovision in the Croatian capital of Zagreb. But as an independent country Croatia has never won the contest…despite its 23 attempts. The country finished fourth on two occasions — in 1996 with Maja Blagdan and three years later with Doris Dragovic. Nina Krajlic and Jacques Houdek have taken the country to the final two years running. Could they go even higher next year?
Croatia isn’t the only struggling ex-Yugoslav state to make the list. Another long-suffering country from the region is Slovenia, which like its neighbour Croatia has appeared at Eurovision 23 times. They have finished seventh twice — in 1995 when Darja Svajger sang “Prisluhni mi” and in 2001 when Nusa Derenda sang “Energy”. Their highest placing in recent years came in 2011 when Maja Keuc placed 13th. Sadly they haven’t made the final since 2015.
Poland debuted with a bang, placing second in 1994 with the lovely Edyta Gorniak. Her performance of “To nie ja” remains the country’s best-ever result. Unfortunately Poland failed to make the final from 2005 until 2007, and again from 2009 until 2011. But since their comeback in 2014 they have reached the final all four times and celebrated their 20th appearance at Eurovision in Kyiv this year. Who can finally get them a win?
7. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina can be considered one of the more successful former Yugoslav republics, as they never missed out on a final until Eurovision 2016 in Stockholm. They came closest to winning in 2006 when they finished third with Hari Mata Hari. After 19 years of waving their flag at Eurovision they took a break in 2017. But rumour has it there is a comeback on the cards. If Bosnia and Herzegovina returns, can they pull a Ukraine 2016 or a Portugal 2017 and win after a one-year absence?
Of the ten countries on this list, only Romania has managed to make it to the final during every one of its appearances at Eurovision. Yes, in their eighteen appearances they have reached the final eighteen times. They finished third on two occasions — with Luminita Anghel in 2005 and Paula Seling & Ovi in 2010. Are you looking forward to attending Eurovision in Bucharest sometime soon?
Lithuania debuted in 1994 and finished last with nil points. So it’s no wonder they decided to sit the next four editions of the contest out. By the early 00s its neighbours were well and truly in the midst of a Baltic Golden Age, as Estonia won the contest in 2001 and Latvia took the crown a year later. In their eighteen appearances, Lithuania peaked at sixth place, which came in 2006 when LT United sang “We Are The Winners”.
10. FYR Macedonia
Of the ten countries that have competed the most times without winning, FYR Macedonia has definitely performed the worst. In its 17 appearances it has never finished in the top 10. In fact, they have only managed to qualify for the final once in their last ten appearances. That was down to Kaliopi, who placed 13th in 2012 (only to crash out of the semis when she returned in 2016).
These are the ten countries that have been waiting the longest for a win. But there are plenty of other countries — including Australia, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova — who have yet to clutch the trophy either. Of these winless nations, which are you cheering for the most? Who do you hope nabs the trophy soon and why? Let us know in the comments box below.
I myself don’t care about new nations winning the Eurovision Song Contest, but it would be great if Malta and Iceland win. Croatia has a long ESC history as part of Yugoslavia and I am waiting for my mother’s birthplace to win. Poland is in my waiting list, too.
Iceland and Malta have great songs in their national selections like”Tonight” and “Kewkba”. They have been chosen wrong songs many times. It’s their problem and Cyprus is always underrated.
Portugal is not in the ranking anymore!!!! HELL YEAH
Doris (Croatia) and Edyta (Poland) were amazing and deserved a victory.
Dunno if Kaliopi crashed out …. That’s pretty harsh.
Even though I don’t like DONA ….. She did finished 8th with the televote which is probably our highest televote score yet.
Yeah, but usually who does it first remains the only. I mean see what Russia did by puttin Plushenko on stage. Or Finland in 2006. Yeah, they did it because it meant originality. But if in 2018 one country is coming with sth from the 30’s, like Portugal… the people will just see it like a copy. It also would be becoming cliche, it is no more original, it wouldn’t have the same impact. I think that Iceland, we could say, tried to copy lots of elements from the winning song from 2015 in 2016 with their entry. The entry… Read more »
No mention of San Marino of course. WWB seems to have something against them. 🙁
It’s pure maths, these are the most participating countries without a win. San Marino participated 8 times, pretty far from the 10th country in the list with 17. It is just a top 10.
This list is not accurate… Couse it is made od numbers of entries, not b, the first appearance year… So country wich is waiting for the longest is Malta not Cyprus…
Amazed no mention of Armenia: They are consistently one of the strongest countries yet have yet to win. It can surely only be a matter of time for them.
Again, it is top 10 by the number of participations. Armenia has just 11 presences, the 10th country is Macedonia with 17.
Of the performers and near-winners listed, the only one I think *should* have won is Chiara for Malta in 2005. I listen to Angel far more than I listen to My Number One, and enjoy it far more as well. As for who I’d like to see turn it around most, I think Romania is due. I always like what they send, because they always send something Out Of The Box. I know that juries generally punish that kind of creativity (as an equal fan of Finland, trust me, I know), but if the influence of the juries ever gets… Read more »
Agree with everything you said, I only disagree with the thing about Romania … I would not say that they think outside the box… I mean in 2010 very good song, but I wouldn’t call it original, in 2011 seriously just a fun, jazzy song, in 2012 they went a bit Spanish, but the Balkan vibes were still there, in 2013 have to agree with you, but the song was BAD, in 2014 again great song, but it was just a typical ESC song, in 2015 love they sang in Romanian, message was nice, but once again nothing really outstading… Read more »
What I really like about my country is that we are sending sth different every year, different styles every year and in the recent years Romania gave a plus of originality to the contest. A pop-opera entry, a yodelling influence, which were things you don’t usually listen at Eurovision. Not to forget about the robbed entry from 2016, which would have been again sth very different from the usual. So far Romania just didn’t send a rock song, which was prepared for 2016.
Great article. My feeling is that Bulgaria and Romania have the steam and the stamina to be winners soon. Bulgaria almost did it this year… I am also sure that Iceland will give us a good victory soon. On the hand, Malta, Cyprus and Croatia were on fire about twenty to ten years ago, but seem to have lost their mojo… However, as Portugal or Austria has shown, one never really knows what can happen and that is the beauty of ESC
Portugal for me more deserved to won in 1996 then 2017.
Intersting both time nordic country won when was Iceland on second place in 1999 and 2009.
For me Malta deserved to won in 1992 better song than Ireland and UK. In 1998,2002,2005 they are overrated.
Iceland deserved to won in 1986 for me one of best song that year and in 1997 if we had 100 % televote in 1997 I think Iceland wili be in TOP 10 100 % and maybe in TOP 5 70 %.
Countries who have chance to win
Australia, then Malta, Romania, Bulgaria, Armenia.
50 decades old means 500 years old…
Cyprus will forever be in the shadows of Greece and Turkey. They need to figure out what sets them apart from their two neighbors.
Turkey isn’t competing anymore.
As for Greece, the problem Cyprus has is that they don’t have an independent music industry. The Cypriot music industry is exactly the same as the one for Greece, which is based in Athens. The only independent Cypriot productions are folk songs.
I can’t wait for Iceland’s first victory. It’s my favorite country in the contest, I love almost all of their entries.
I hope there will one day be a time where every country in Eurovision has won at least once. I doubt that’ll happen though. Can anyone imagine a San Marino or Andorran win? I can!
Still gobsmacked that Macedonia did not qualify this year.
Even if Jana qualified, it would have been an uphill battle to get past even a respectable 4th place (which I predicted for her before the contest started). She and her stage director should have turned the stage into a mini-rave, flashing lights, lasers and all.
I have done this in my pinned tweet on my Twitter account @adrian00b! This is not fair!
Those smallas can try portuguese recipe to get someone not aiming for radio/tv but relying on live perfomances as it evidently leaves pleanty of space to give it best fitting visuals with saved costs.
But applying that scenario for small countries it’s still hard to predict anything good as they’re often have bigger mouths at their blocks.
Is Romania a secret big 6 country? 18 finals out of 18 participations 😉
They only need to give dat mony mony tho the EBU! 😛
Someone remember Latvian Supernova participiant The Ludvig? His dad died in a car crash. 🙁
Nobody remembers him nor cares about him.
The one who rigged the Spotify charts? Oh yeah that’s him
I’m still not over the horrid injustice of 2002. It was in my opinion the only time where neighbourly voting stole victory from a deserving song and handed it to an undeserving one. Malta has wanted to win so badly for so long, I’m so anxious to see them back in the game.
Yes in 2002 Malta did deserve to win! The Latvian song was only appealing to the televoters on the night. Afterwards uit was forgotten about completely.
Malta and Latvia both nabbed it from France in 2002, the only deserving song that year (UK was alright, but not the winner)
Latvia is the winner for me in 2002
I am still listening to it
Latvia was the most memorable winner that night.
The whole thing came together, and it was a weak year.
And it was a mixed system by televote/jury in many countries.. it wasn’t only due to televote.
Malta was cheesy af
France had the best song, yet Latvia had the appealing/entertainment factor
2003 was a diaspora robbery voting. 2002 was fair enough lol
For me Turkey deserved to won in 2003 , best song for me that year with song from Iceland .For me Belgium and Russia was so overrated in points that year.
Latvia won that year thanks to impresive stage peformance. Malta 2 nd place for me was big surprise that year. That year favorite to won on betting odds was Germany who are only finished on 21 place of 24 countries ( Corinna was so nervious better was from Germany NF), second favorite was Sweden (Afro dite sound so much better in MF), third favorite was Spain and Rosa with Europe living celebration.ž For me France was good but better song was from 2001 and singer try to copy so much in 2002 Celine Dion. For me that year was underrated… Read more »
Oh please, Latvia 2002 set the roots for the Eurovision performances as we know them now. Before then, the singer was merely standing on stage with little action going on. Marija Naumova brought the first memorable performance to the Eurovision stage.
A phrase I constantly have heard was “It’s only a matter of time until Iceland or Malta win”
That phrase got somewhat… dated, considering they hace hit a sort of rock bottom. I doubt they will now until there is an evolution.
The phrase now fits much more on Hungary and Bulgaria. And if you include winners who have had a bad streak but resurfaced, France, Belgium and the Netherlands are on the way.
Cyprus seemingly got good on qualification stability, so did Poland.
Now Albania, Spain, Lithuania… eesh…
I think it’s high time countries like Romania, Hungary, Poland, Malta and Iceland take the prize. They really put in a good effort most of the time. Especially impressed with Hungary and A Dal this year. Keep up the good work! 🙂
Interesting list, thanks! Shows also that the “only Eastern European countries win (aleays!)”-stereotype by many non-fans is wrong.
Well not necessarily, the eastern european countries started joining around the eighties while many western countries already had opportunities to win since the fifties 😉
Australia needs to win in order for the contest to maintain legitimacy. Remember Italy withdrew in the 1990s because they kept sending the best songs but never winning.
And they still do that :)) 2015… Italy was killed, certain winner and still…
Central Europe & Balkan Country will win later. Only time who dont know (Bulgaria,Romania,Hungary,Poland,& Bosnia). Iceland as Scandi delegation will win later too. Its only wait time…
I wouldnt mind Malta or Iceland winning soon!
I don’t think we’ll ever see Albania and Macedonia winning, there isn’t even an indoor arena in those countries. Even Armenia and Moldova are too poor. But Iceland, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria absolutely need to win soon, so they’d better hurry and send a smash.
In Macedonia, there is (Boris Trajkovski Arena). And it’s perfect.
Some years ago, when Macedonia was trying to send “Imperija” (2013) there was something like “putting a roof on the City Stadium” if Macedonia was to be host. So, there are options.
I don’t know about Albania.
I don’t know why but I just really want Albania it win #TIRANA2019!!!
I have that feeling that Poland will win in the next few years.
It’s so amazing how much the Cypriot song from Lisa reminds of Amar Pelos Dois. Europe has always had a soft spot for beautiful soft love ballads sung from an honest and pure place. Usually ballads take on a more shouty diva style but subtely and quiet emotion can score well.
“Amar Pelos Dois” reminds of Lisa Andrea’s song, if someone can say that. Not the other way around.
Using only televote, these are the top 5 countries (excluding Turkey) since 2009, based on average results :
#. Country, Average Place
1. Russia, 5.3
2. Azerbaijan, 8.6
3. Romania, 9.0
4. Sweden, 9.2
5. Ukraine, 9.9
Among non-winners, Romania stands out as a powerhouse in Eurovision. For many they represent pure, unadulterated fun. An aspect of the contest which has fallen somewhat in disrepute since the introduction of juries. What they would need to win is perhaps that tiny drop of cynicism.
Armenia and B&H would be next on my list.
Using Jury + Televoting:
1. Australia: 5.33
2. Russia: 7.13
3. Sweden: 8.78
4. Azerbaijan: 8.89
5. Italy: 9.14
6. Ukraine: 9.38
7. Turkey: 11.0
8. Romania 12.25
Romania’s problem is clear. The question is if they want to win now, after solving that huge financial issue.
I’m sure Romania, Poland or Hungary will win soon. I’m betting on Hungary.
A Dal is frequently so strong. Hope they get a win soon!
They just keep sending cute stuff people enjoy but won’t vote enough for to be top 5 in televoting, and their music industry is not that exciting… the problem with A Dal is that it only accepts applicants that are already known so we won’t be likely to see brand new faces there.
It’s not the music industry what makes your country a Eurovision winner, but one specific well-staged song.
For example: Portugal 2017 and Austria 2014.
Also, notice Bulgaria 2016/17, Azerbaijan 2009/10/11/12/13 (they used very little from their national music industry and did very well).
From this list, I would love to see an Icelandic victory, they have sent many great entries and hasn’t been deservedly awarded. It would also be great to see a Bosnian victory, but given their situation I really doubt this will happen soon (or perhaps it won’t ever happen).
I’m hoping for Iceland, Armenia, or Romania to win soon…
It would mean so much to all of them. It’d be beautiful!
More than all of these, I’d like to see France win.
Portugal says bye to this list 😀
Crossing fingers for Iceland!
Yasss! Love that Portugal has said BYE! Who’d have thought a year ago?!
I hope that my country Slovenia will win in Portugal next year, but I also hope that Bosnia and Herzegovina (country where I was born) will win next year.Only thing is to wait until next Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon, Portugal #2018
A 2018 Bosnia victory would be very bizarre. 😀 But I don’t really think that they’ll return next year.
Given that BHRT is about to collapse, and about to get expelled of EBU, I don’t think we’ll see Bosnia and Herzegovina in the contest soon.
They have sent many great entries, I hope they fix their situation as soon as possible and re-join the party. 😀
You forgot to mention Armenia at the end of the article.
Armenia has only participated nine times if I recall correctly, that’s (almost) half the entries that FYR Macedonia, the tenth place in this ranking, has sent, 17, so it doesn’t enter in a top 10 ranking.
Yeah I know that, but at the end they mentioned countries which also haven’t won like Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan but they didn’t mention Armenia.
Azerbaijan has won the contest. (2011)