Who will win the 2016 FIVB Volleyball World League?May 04, 2016

It won't take minutes to predict the FIVB Volleyball World League champion after the Olympic year, even before the Olympics.

The Summer Olympics is a quadrennial event, and only twelve national teams can compete in Rio de Janeiro. No one wants to get injured while playing in this lucrative tournament. (One million dollars go to the winning team.) And there's no need to guess if some players are not at the peak form. Peaking will be good enough in this instance. (The teams that fall short can console themselves with the fact that this is an annual event.) Let's look back at last year's edition.

France was the 2015 FIVB Volleyball World League winner. It was their first title, and there was no doubt that it was the best performance by the French squad. Led by Earvin N'Gapeth, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, France beat Brazil in front of the raucous Brazilian fans. The site would be the same venue for the Olympics. It was the first match of the finals, and the French players didn't look back. Many would call it an upset, as the Brazilian squad don't lose in home soil.

This year's World League will take place a week after the final Olympic qualification tournament in Tokyo. Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Russia, and the United States won't travel to Japan, which means these teams are certain of advancing to the finals in Poland. Right? Perhaps not. For one, these players don't want to peak too soon. Second, those who would play in Tokyo have the advantage. (The chances of catching these teams on their off day will be close to nil.) Last but not least, fans might be disappointed at what they would see. (They may be below their best, but you can't blame them.) But it's safe to make a fearless prediction.

Poland, the 2012 World League winner, are the favourites to win the finals. It will be held in their own turf, and there's no need to doubt their chances. (Poland hosted the 2014 FIVB World Championships. The Polish men beat their Brazilian opponents in four sets.) France, the defending champion, will like to be one of the three teams that will qualify next month. But don't expect Laurent Tillie's charges to be eliminated before the final round. Italy may be the dark horse of the tournament, and a good draw might favour their chances. And Australia has a good chance of making to the Final 6. They can play their best, and let the win-lose quotient favour them.

Who will win the FIVB Volleyball World Grand Prix?

The United States won four World Grand Prix titles during the last six years. And the defending champion are strong favourites to win their seventh overall crown. Brazil, which has won more than any competing nations, has been consistent in this tournament. Expect José Roberto Guimarães's charges to advance to the final round easily.

The final round will be held in Bangkok, so fans can't discount the home team. (The Thai capital was the venue of the 2013 Asian Women's Volleyball Championship. The host team beat Chinese Taipei, China, and Japan en route to their second Asian title.) There's a good chance that Kiattipong Radchatagriengkai's squad will make it to the winner's podium, but they may need their fans to inspire them during their match against the US and Brazil.

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