Whether it’s Adrenalina’s disappointing result in the 2021 Grand Final, Blackbird failing to qualify in 2017, or You Are The Only One coming 3rd in 2016 despite winning the televote, the term ‘robbed’ is frequently used across the Eurovision fan community. As much as we may say our favourites are robbed when they do worse than we expect, more often than not the result is completely fair, as much as we might personally disagree.
Nonetheless, there are a handful of Eurovision entries that, through unfortunate circumstances, missed out on qualification spots, deserved results or even winning; these can be more accurately thought of as ‘robbed’. Let’s explore some of these so-called robberies, and decide if indeed we can consider them as officially robbed.
Tick-Tock – Albina (Croatia 2021)
The most recent example of a potential robbery, Tick Tock was a fan favourite of 2021 – with a sleek stage show, an infectious beat, and a charismatic performer, Tick-Tock was thought to be a fairly comfortable qualifier in the so-called ‘Semi-Final of Death’ in 2021. Despite Croatia’s best efforts, Albina just missed out on a qualification spot, coming 11th in Semi-Final 1 with 110 points. Looking at the results in more detail, Croatia actually came 9th in the juries and 10th in the televote; hence, it was both a jury and televote qualifier, but still didn’t qualify overall.
Given that Croatia hasn’t had the best track record in the past decade, it’s unfortunate that they just missed out due to arithmetic not being on their side. Hopefully we’ll see Albina return to Eurovision in the future, getting the result she deserves!
Pali Się – Tulia (Poland 2019) / Run With The Lions – Jurij Veklenko (Lithuania 2019)
2019 was a bit of a crazy year when it came to jury voting, as demonstrated by the EBU’s incorrectly calculated aggregate score for the Belarusian jury, which led to the overall results for the Grand Final being altered. In addition to this, we saw some strange jury voting that led many to believe that the countries that just missed out on qualifying, Poland and Lithuania, were robbed of a qualification spot at the hands of some inattentive jurors.
Poland, represented by folk girl-group Tulia with Fire of Love (Pali Się), was a hair’s breadth away from qualifying in Semi-Final 1, coming in 11th position with 120 points, just two points behind Belarus in 10th. Following the contest, some unusual voting patterns were noticed. A member of the Czech jury awarded Slovenia last, whereas their fellow juror all ranked Slovenia first. This same juror then went on to rank Slovenia 6th in the Grand Final. Hence, it’s suggested that this juror recorded their votes in reverse for Semi-Final 1. If this is true, had this juror voted in their intended way, Poland would have had enough points to qualify.
Strangely enough, a very similar situation happened in Semi-Final 2 of the same year. Lithuania was the unlucky 11th placer in this semi, coming only 1 point behind Denmark in 10th place. A member of the Russian jury ranked Denmark first in the semi and last in the final, while ranking Azerbaijan last in the semi and first in the final. This strongly suggests that the juror voted in reverse; if so, then Lithuania would have qualified over Denmark had the juror voted otherwise.
It’s unconfirmed whether these jurors actually did make a mistake, but voting patterns in the Semi-Final versus the Grand Final indicate that Poland and Lithuania were robbed of places in the grand final, due to jurors simply not following instructions.
Love Unlimited – Sofi Marinova (Bulgaria 2012)
We now know of Bulgaria as a country that does Eurovision right, with a streak of qualifications since 2016 and achieving the second highest points score ever in 2017. Although prior to this Bulgaria were pretty unlucky in terms of Eurovision success, only qualifying once between 2005 and 2013 before taking a 2-year hiatus. A few of the entries within this ‘flop period’ came close to qualifying, such as DJ Take Me Away by Deep Zone & Balthazar in 2008, and Elitsa & Stoyan’s return in 2013 with Samo Shampioni.
However, the most unfortunate near-miss has to be Love Unlimited by Sofi Marinova – a Eurodance banger, somehow performed without in-ear monitors, which to date features the only Azerbaijani lyrics heard in a Eurovision song ever. Bulgaria came 10th in Semi-Final 2 with 45 points, but so did Norway, represented by Tooji with Stay. The tiebreak rule dictated that the country with the most countries voting for them wins, meaning that Norway (voted for by 11 countries) qualified over Bulgaria (voted for by 10 countries). A shame for poor Sofi, but in fairness Tooji didn’t have great luck either, ending up last in the 2012 Grand Final.
Salvem el món– Anonymous (Andorra 2007)
Andorra hold the unique title of being the only country to never be in a Eurovision final. Given their brief tenure from 2004–2009, and the general quality of their entries, some may say this is deserved. However, the microstate did come close to gaining a spot in the Grand Final. In 2007, Andorra entered the contest with pop punk band Anonymous with Salvem el món. In order to qualify, Andorra had the difficult task of coming in the Top 10 of 28 countries, in the largest Eurovision Semi-Final of all time, back in the days when there was just one large Semi-Final. Andorra came very close to what would have been their first and only Eurovision qualification, coming in 12th position with 80 points, but it wasn’t enough to qualify. The next year, the two-Semi-Final system was introduced. Many believe that Anonymous would have been able to qualify in this format, and fell victim to being in such a large Semi-Final. Here’s hoping that Andorra return in the future, and can finally get themselves into the Grand Final.
Let Me Love You – Tamara, Vrcak & Adrian (North Macedonia 2008)
It might be hard to believe, but up until 2008, North Macedonia (formerly F.Y.R. Macedonia) had a 100% qualification record. Some might argue that this was mainly due to pre-2008 one-semi system working in their favour, but nonetheless it must have been a shock to North Macedonia when they didn’t qualify with Let Me Love You, an R&B-style Balkan bop sung by none other than Tamara Todevska. What must have been even more shocking was to learn that North Macedonia had actually come in 10th position in Semi-Final 2. While any other year 10th position would be a guaranteed qualification spot, 2008 used a wildcard system, in which the top 9 countries of the televote are guaranteed to qualify, while the 10th qualifier is the juries’ choice. While the juries happened to choose the song that came 10th in Semi-Final 1 (Poland), in Semi 2 they opted for former Eurovision winner Charlotte Perelli (who only came 12th). Thankfully Tamara got her redemption, coming back 11 years later with Proud and winning the jury vote!
Planet of Blue – Leon (Germany 1996)
In the 90s and early 2000s, before the semi-final system was introduced, the EBU basically had too many countries that wanted to take part in the contest each year. Most years the EBU would use the relegation rule, in which the countries that did poorly in the results one year would be out of the contest the following year (then allowed back the year after that). However, this rule wasn’t always popular, and is cited as one of the reasons why five-time champion Luxembourg withdrew following their relegation in 1994 and has never returned since.
In 1996, the EBU thought they’d try a different strategy, using an audio-only pre-qualification round to cut 29 countries down to 22 for the final. The seven unlucky countries that didn’t make the cut included Russia, Romania, Israel, Denmark, Hungary, and what would have been the debut entry of North Macedonia, performed by none other than 2012 and 2016 representative Kaliopi. Perhaps the most shocking of these ‘non-qualifiers’ was Germany, who entered the 1996 contest with Planet of Blue by Leon. This classic bit of 90s Eurodance is still celebrated by Eurofans today, and would have made a welcome addition to the 1996 final alongside Gina G’s Ooh Aah Just a Little Bit.
What makes Germany’s involuntary non-participation in 1996 even more tragic is that this is the only year since that Germany had not participated in Eurovision since the contest’s inception in 1956 (excluding 2020, for obvious reasons). Suffice to say, this experiment didn’t go down to well – in 1997 the EBU reverted to the flawed but serviceable relegation system, before opting for a semi-final system in 2004 that is still followed today.
C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison – Amina (France 1991)
As we learnt with Bulgaria 2012, tiebreaks are a real pain in Eurovision; this statement holds even more truth in the case of the 1991 contest, hosted in Rome. This contest featured a range of classics still enjoyed by the Eurovision community, such as Euroclub classic Kan by Israel’s Duo Datz, and iconic flop Yugoslav entry Brazil by Baby Doll. After a memorable contest, the results came through and we had two songs at the top of the leader board with 146 points: Fångad av en stormvind by Sweden’s Carola, a previous participant from 1983 and a future participant for 2006, and C’est le dernier qui a parlé qui a raison by Amina from France. This meant that for the first time, since its introduction after the infamous four-way tie of the 1969 content, the ‘count-back’ tie-break rule was to be implemented to determine one overall winner. The country with the most sets of 12 points was to be declared the winner; however, both Sweden and France both received four sets of 12 points. Therefore, the winning country was to be the one who received the most sets of 10 points, resulting in Sweden emerging victorious, after receiving five sets of 10 points versus two sets received by France.
This result is still controversial to this day; many fans believe that France’s song, an understated ballad with North African influences that described oppression of women in the Arab world, would have made a more credible and memorable winner than Sweden’s fairly run-of-the-mill schlager song (although, plenty would argue that Carola’s brilliant performance alone merited a win).
Perhaps what’s most controversial is the fact that under the new tie-break rule, which dictates that the country receiving points from the highest number of country wins (the same rule that saw Norway qualify over Bulgaria in 2012), France would have won over Sweden in 1991. I think its safe to say that France was a victim of malchance in 1991, and was perhaps robbed of a win that they most probably deserved.
Congratulations – Cliff Richard (United Kingdom 1968)
Finally, we come to a Eurovision entry that may have literally been robbed, as it is widely speculated that the United Kingdom entry for 1968 fell victim to vote rigging. The entry in question was Congratulations by (Sir) Cliff Richard, a widely-known 60s pop song performed by someone who is now one of the best-selling artists of all time. Congratulations was the favourite to win the 1968 contest, with the British press asking “What will come second to Congratulations?”. On the night, the United Kingdom was leading the voting at first, before being pipped to the post by Spain at the last moment. Spain emerged victorious in Eurovision 1968, winning with La La La by Massiel. Forty years later, it was alleged that the Spanish broadcaster bought votes to ensure a win. It’s been suggested that this was done following pressure from General Franco, who wanted to boost Spain’s image and promote tourism in the country.
Of course, these are just allegations, and there is no solid evidence that this happened. Sir Cliff has entertained the idea that he was robbed of a Eurovision victory, saying “I’ve lived with this number two thing for so many years, it would be wonderful if someone official from the contest turned around and said: Cliff, you won that darn thing after all”. However, he has also said an official investigation “might not be worth the trouble”, suggesting that he may have accepted this 53-year old result after all.
I’ve lived with this number two thing for so many years, it would be wonderful if someone official from the contest turned around and said: ‘Cliff, you won that darn thing after all’Cliff Richard, 2008
Do you agree that these Eurovision entries were ‘robbed’? Let us know what other entries you consider to be ‘robbed’ in the comments below.