I remember that before the 2006 WCH I did a ranking of the teams divided in groups (every group had a colour from red to yellow, red being the strongest) based on their competitivness. The first group - medal contenders, second group - medium-high teams, etc. I didn't know that Serbia would surprise us that much.
Group 1 (red) = 1.Brazil, 2.Italy, 3.China, 4.Russia, 5.Cuba
Group 2 (orange) = 1.Japan, 2.USA, 3.Poland, 4.Netherlands, 5.Germany, 6.Turkey, 7.Azerbaijan
Group 3 (light orange) = 1.Dominican Republic, 2.South Korea, 3.Serbia, 4.Bulgaria, 5.Croatia, 6.Kazakhstan, 7.Peru
Group 4 (yellow) = 1.Chinese Taipei, 2.Puerto Rico, 3.Thailand, 4.Romania, 5.Czech Republic, 6.France, 7.Spain
Now before the 2010 WCH I think the situation is more or less like this:
Group 1 (red) = 1.Brazil, 2.Italy, 3.China, 4.USA, 5.Russia, 6.Cuba
Group 2 (orange) = 1.Netherlands, 2.Germany, 3.Poland, 4.Serbia, 5.Turkey, 6.Japan
Group 3 (light orange) = 1.Dominican Republic, 2.Thailand, 3.Azerbaijan, 4.South Korea, 5.Puerto Rico, 6.Czech Republic, 7.Kazakhstan, 8.Croatia, 9.Bulgaria
Group 4 (yellow) = 1.Chinese Taipei, 2.Peru, 3.Spain, 4.Belgium, 5.Belarus, 6.Slovakia, 7.France, 8.Romania
I think USA with the Olympic team is really strong and a serious gold medal contender, but Brazil is the real favourite.