Nul point

The map: All set for `Eurovision'? Matthew Sweet charts 43 gloriously terrible years
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Bosnia-Herzegovina The former Yugoslavian republics made their debut in the competition in 1993, and not without difficulty. To produce a demo of their song, the Sarajevan band Fazla had to buy 120 litres of black-market generator fuel. They shot their promo video in the streets of Sarajevo, dodging sniper fire. Getting from Sarajevo to the contest in Dublin took two attempts, but Fazla finally made it by army truck to Mostar and then travelled by bus to Zagreb.

Germany In the old days, Germany took Eurovision seriously - its 1979 entry was a ball-breaker with the charming title of "Ghengis Khan". But recent signs are that the Germans have become unacceptably silly. Last year they unleashed Guildo Horn, a sweaty, bellowing beermonster squeezed into Bavarian lederhosen who belted out a whooped-up folk tune - called "Guildo Loves You" - with the help of his backing band, Orthopaedic Stockings. Next thing you know they'll be covering the Reichstag in fairy lights.

Greece The Greeks recently supplanted the Turks as the least-liked Eurovision competitors. This isn't due to a fall in the quality of Greece's entries - its 1979 entry was a pap-pop tribute to Socrates. Instead, you can blame the surge in Turkey's fortunes effected by songwriter Sebnem Parker. So Greece limps on, despite the fact that Greek Cyprus has awarded its efforts with nine or 10 points since the competition began. Greece rewards Cyprus's kindness by serving an average 9.3 point sweetener every year. Conversely, Cyprus and Turkey have not given each other a single point since 1981.

Iceland In 1997, the Reykjavik team made their appearance in S&M gear, and brought an element of sleaze that would have had Katie Boyle cowering behind the flower arrangement. In a rare break with protocol, Terry Wogan interrupted relay of the song to mutter, "I want you to keep an eye out for a man playing a bunch of grapes ... Are we sure this is not Channel 4 ... ?"

Ireland Officially the best-liked Eurovision country. Sweden is its most enthusiastic fan, and has rarely awarded anything less than seven points. Popularity has its downside, though. The winning country is obliged to stage the following year's event, and Ireland's string of recent successes nearly bankrupted state broadcaster RTE - the bill is reckoned at pounds 3m a throw. However, as RTE can take responsibility for launching the horror of Michael Flatley upon an unsuspecting world, they deserve everything they get.

Israel When Dana International won the contest last year, it provoked a lot of awkward questions. Such as, Daddy, what's a transsexual? And, Daddy, is Israel in Europe? Well, I can help you out with the latter. Every European country (even the Vatican City, San Marino and Belarus) is eligible to enter. You don't have to be part of geographic Europe, you just have to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union. The contest is actually named after a system of cables that were the pre-satellite way of transmitting TV pictures around the world. So that's why Israel has always been part of the game, and why the show will be broadcast from Jerusalem tonight. By the same quirk, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia are also eligible to enter, but so far have been far too sensible to bother.

Norway The Norwegians have always approached the competition with a certain solemnity. In 1966, 16-year-old Ase Kleveland entered Eurovision with her stirring song "Intet Nytt Under Solen" - 30 years later she became Norway's Minister of Cultural Affairs. After Gunnhild Tvinnerein, a tour guide from the town of Bygdoy, won the contest in 1996 with "Nocturne", Oslo TV had Morten Harket compere the 1997 show from a giant mock-up of a North Sea drilling platform - to reflect Norway's pride in its biggest export (oil, that is, not A-ha).

Spain In 1968, Spain thrashed the UK (represented by Cliff Richard's "Congratulations"), with "La, la, la" - a song which contained 138 la's, and little else. In Madrid the following year, Lulu used her "Boom-Bang- a-Bang" to wrest the title back for the UK. Inspired by these successes, Eurovision competitors then went ga-ga for meaningless onomatopoeia: Holland's Teach-In got to first place with "Ding Dinge Dong" in 1975, Israel's Izhar Cohen won the contest with "A-Ba-Ni-Bi" in 1978, Sweden's Herreys triumphed in 1984 with "Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley", and Denmark pitched in with the suspiciously Lulu-like "Boom Boom". Fandabidozi.

United Kingdom The UK is apparently the most successful Eurovision competitor. Ireland has won it more frequently, but the UK has come second a staggering 14 times. So let's concentrate on our most shameful moments. Like when, in 1977, Ronnie Hazlehurst conducted Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran's "Rock Bottom" with an umbrella. Wacky. Or, in 1982, when the gormless "One Step Further" came in at an uncertain seventh place, and the then editor of Smash Hits, one Neil Tennant, declared, "That's definitely not the last we've heard of Bardo." These days, of course, there's little scope for such embarrassment, as British entries are overseen by Jonathan "Una Paloma Blanca" King

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