Moving on to the next patient countries in our countdown...
10. FYR Macedonia
7. Bosnia & Herzegovina
4. Croatia – 24 Participations – Debut: 1993 – Highest Pos: 4th
Another former participant under the Yugoslavian flag, Croatia was possibly the most successful of the Yugoslavian republics, representing the nation in 1963, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990. It was also the community that gave Yugoslavia its only win, with "Rock Me" sung by Riva in 1989. This means that even though Croatia have never won as an independent country, their capital (Zagreb) did get to host the contest in 1990.
Their first entry as a country in their own right was in 1993 with the band Put performing "Don't Ever Cry", which placed 15th overall. From here, Croatia qualified for the final throughout all the various entry requirements of the 90s – not a small feat when the rules changed frequently, and when results from several previous years could dictate a country’s eligibility. It could be argued these were Croatia’s golden Eurovision years: until the introduction of the modern semi final system, 1993 to 2003 saw Croatia make the top 20 every single time, with 6 of their 13 entries making it into the top 10. The highest Croatia have ever ranked is 4th, an accomplishment they managed twice in this 1993 to 2003 period, with Maja Blagdan performing "Sveta ljubav" in 1996 and Doris Dragović performing "Marija Magdalena" in 1999.
The 2004-onwards years have been generally disappointing for Croatia. Excluding the 2014/2015 years when they didn’t participate (due to a combination of painful budgets and even more painful results), Croatia have made it to the final 7 times out of their 13 entries. Of these, the highest performer was the dramatic Balkan ballad "Vukovi umiru sami" performed by Boris Novković featuring Lado members in 2005 (11th). Highly memorable, Jacques Houdek’s "My Friend" in 2017 only came 13th overall, but with his dual pop and opera performance, as well as performing it as if he were two different people, it went on to become one of the most memed performances of the year, making its way into even the US-based parts of Twitter that don’t really understand what Eurovision is.
3. Iceland - 31 Participations – Debut: 1986 – Highest Pos: 2nd
Despite being one of the smaller countries that participate in Eurovision (with a population of only 350k people), Iceland has only not participated in Eurovision when its previous results prevented it from doing so (1998 and 2002). Making its debut more than 30 years ago in 1986 with ICY performing "Gleðibankinn", Iceland achieved 16th place in the finals. Pre-1998 Iceland only managed to make it into the top 5 once (in 1990 with Stjórnin and "Eitt lag enn" which came 4th). After their non-participation in 1998, Iceland returned to Eurovision with a bang in 1999 with Selma performing "All Out of Luck" and came 2nd, Iceland’s highest ever position (losing out to Sweden’s Charlotte Nilsson with "Take Me to Your Heaven").
Over the next 10 years Iceland had some misses (e.g. "Angel" by Two Tricky bombing at 22nd in 2001) but after these occasional mistakes, they managed to equal their former best with Yohanna and “Is it True?” scoring them another 2nd place in 2009 (and having come 1st in its semi-final). The song went on to become one of the highest selling Eurovision songs of that year throughout Europe – only being beaten by that year’s winner, Alexander Rybak.
Out of 14 entries that had to qualify from the semis (since 2004), Iceland have managed to qualify 7 times. It could be argued that they’re one of Eurovision’s most successful non-winning countries, having never come last, having had a decent amount of points every year they’ve qualified, and (importantly) having been the country that has produced in many Eurovision fans’ minds one of the best club bangers of recent memory (Hera Björk with "Je ne sais quoi" in 2010 which came 19th). Iceland have not managed to qualify for a final since 2014, but they show no signs of withdrawing and it’s that kind of determination which could bag them that longed-for win.
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