Four years ago, USA announced their favouritism for the Olympic gold medal by beating Brazil in the World League semi finals and then beating Serbia to win the title. A few weeks later they completed the job in Beijing.
Through a variety of odd circumstances, it seems unlikely that the this years World League finals will be such a good indicator of what will happen in London. The first odd circumstance was that the FIVB (seemingly) relaxed the World League regulations so that teams did not have to field their strongest team (or something resembling it) during the preliminary rounds. USA, Cuba and Germany were beneficiaries of this circumstance as, respectively, Italy, Russia and Argentina played rounds without any of their top 12 players or their coaches, preferring the keep their starters at home preparing for the Olympics. The second odd circumstance was the absolutely bizarre happenings in Bulgaria. The federation tried to fire the coach, Radostin Stoychev, during the European Qualification Tournament but couldn’t find anyone to take his place. After that embarassment, the coach agreed to stay for the World Olympic Qualification Tournament which Bulgaria duly won. Immediately afterwards Stoychev along with Kaziyski quit the national team. Their preliminary round performances have been unsurprisingly patchy.
As for the tournament itself, I would expect the winner to be either Brazil or Poland. Bulgaria, despite being the host, is in all sorts of chaos that doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. Cuba, despite being in good form and led by an outstanding Leon, is the same team that couldn’t even qualify for the Olympics. USA despite winning their pool, has been mostly unimpressive and have been relying very, very heavily on Anderson and Stanley. Germany despite riding high from their Olympic qualification and easily winning their group in the end, lacks experience of big tournaments.
That leaves, by process of elimination, Brazil and Poland. And neither of those teams have played a match for three weeks which, judging by the thrashing that Cuba is currently giving Brazil, could lead to some rust. Still, those should be the best teams in the tournament. Something tells me Poland will win it.
As for the Olympics, my early tip is Russia, but I actually think five or six teams could win the gold and maybe eight have a chance for a medal.