Eurovision 2014: Second semi final predictions

San Marino, I take it all back

Well, that was a bit surprising. Both San Marino and Montenegro qualified for the final for the first time in their histories. Either one on its own would be interesting, but both is downright bizarre. This particular set of qualifiers came up in only 18 out of 10,000 model simulations. For comparison, the most likely set of ten, which I predicted last time, came up in 628 simulations.

It’s quite likely that the model is poorly calibrated, and that it should have rated these two’s chances slightly higher. On the other hand, I think they were both always unlikely qualifiers, and I’d be very suspicious of a model which put them through with any confidence. The one upside is that now that these two have qualified for the final, the model should have a much richer set of voting data about them for next year.

So we move on, and I apologise to any Sammarinese whose hopes I may have dashed prematurely1.

Where do we stand now?

If we incorporate the knowledge of which countries qualified for the final, we can update our winning predictions. Although the odds on Betfair have also changed, I haven’t updated the model to match. This is partly for convenience, and partly because I don’t want to introduce extra biases, given that the Betfair odds now presumably incorporate a lot of data from the first semi-final, some of which is already accounted for in the model. It’s also theoretically possible that someone has read my last blog post and made bets on the basis of the predictions therein. I really hope that nobody’s making any significant financial decisions on the basis of my half-cocked calculations.

Interestingly, one of the big changes in the Betfair odds is that Sweden and Armenia have traded places at the top of the board, so the implied probabilities from the betting data look a lot more like the model outputs now. It’s unclear what’s caused that change, as we really don’t have much extra information about those two now than we did 24 hours ago. Netherlands and Hungary have also had their odds tighten, which is probably simply a reflection of their having qualified, which was at least somewhat uncertain.

The strangest thing, as far as I can see, is that the odds for the UK have also tightened substantially. While we do have some new information about the countries that performed in the first semi-final, pretty much nothing has happened which could have an impact on the UK’s chances. I think this probably supports my theory that many of those backing the UK are not operating entirely on cold financial logic.

Winning probabilities

What then is new in the model predictions? The biggest change is that our surprise qualifiers, San Marino and Montenegro (and to a lesser extent Iceland), are now showing real possibilities of winning. The probabilities are still small (about 1-2%), but that’s a lot higher than it was previously. To put this in perspective, they’re both now ranked ahead of perennial favourites Russia.

The other noticeable effect is that, due to Iceland qualifying, the chances of all the Nordic countries have been depressed slightly, as they’re likely to siphon a few votes away. This is a pretty small effect though, and Sweden has taken most of the hit. In general, everything looks quite a lot like we left it before the semi-final.

But we’re not there yet

All that is getting a bit ahead of ourselves though. First, we’ve got the second semi-final to look forward to. This is a much weaker field: the model gives less than 8% chance that one of these countries goes on to win. This also makes the qualifications a bit less predictable, at least in theory. On the other hand, this is a small semi-final, with only 15 entries, and 10 qualification spots, so we can probably expect some stuff to go through which might not otherwise.

Qualification probabilities

Greece, Norway and Romania are usually safe bets for qualification, and the model is giving them all over 95% likelihood. We can almost certainly add Israel, Finland and Austria to that list. After that, things start to drop off a bit in certainty.

It’s also fairly easy to eliminate a few unlikely qualifiers. Macedonia and Slovenia were never among the powerhouses of the former Yugoslavia, and without their neighbours for support, they’re unlikely to go any further. Belarus is similarly dependent on absent friends, and has a tendency to produce the kind of slightly odd pop song that only a totalitarian regime could love.

That leaves six countries on the bubble: Georgia, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Switzerland. Both Ireland and Malta benefit from the UK voting in this semi-final, and the model expects them both to qualify. Poland and Lithuania should both get some support from Ireland, but Poland also benefit from having Germany voting, so we’re likely to be seeing their uniquely creepy blend of nationalism, agriculture and heaving bosoms in the final as well.

Georgia, who are usually a safe bet for qualification, have drawn a particularly bad semifinal for them with almost no former Soviet republics for backup. According to Betfair, they’re the least likely country to qualify (price of 4.9, meaning a probability of about 20%). However, the model still reckons they’re the most likely to take the last slot, with a probability of 56%. Betfair thinks this slot will go to Switzerland, who have qualified only once in the past eight years, with Anna Rossinelli in 2011. She came last.

  1. Looking at my web stats, I can’t actually find evidence that anyone from San Marino has ever read this blog.