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Who will win World Cup 2022? Rising stars or legends could be key.

Neymar, Messi or Ronaldo could propel their teams to the final, but keep an eye on young players from Belgium and Spain.

Neymar, one of Brazil's stars, shown during a game against Colombia last year. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

The men’s World Cup soccer tournament starts in the small Middle East country of Qatar on Sunday. Teams from 32 countries will compete to see who will win the World Cup trophy.

FIFA, the international soccer organization that runs the World Cup, estimates that 5 billion (!) people will watch some part of the tournament on television, according to its president, Gianni Infantino.

The 32 teams are divided into eight groups. The teams play three matches within their group. Teams are awarded 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie. The two teams with the most points in each group move on to the knockout rounds, where the winners move on and the losers go home.

So which team will win the World Cup? France is the defending champion and has plenty of talented players, such as midfielder Aurélien Tchouameni and forward Kylian Mbappé.

But it is tough to repeat. No country has won back-to-back World Cups since Brazil won in 1958 and 1962.

World Cup grew in popularity with an assist from Pelé, other stars

Speaking of Brazil … the Brazilian team is ranked Number 1 in the world and is loaded with scorers led by international superstar Neymar. The South American soccer powerhouse has won five World Cups, more than any other country (Germany and Italy have won four). Count on the Brazilians to make another long run in the 2022 tournament.

Chances are, however, the 2022 champion will come from the European continent. Ten of the top 12 men’s teams are from Europe.

Spanish stars Pedri (19 years old) and Gavi (18), are young but may make a big splash in this year’s tournament. They have established themselves by playing well together for the legendary club Barcelona.

Belgium is ranked second in the world and may be the best soccer nation never to win a World Cup. The Red Devils, as they are called, are packed with veteran players but may need a spark from 21-year-old midfielder Charles De Ketelaere.

And I haven’t even mentioned traditional European soccer powers such as Germany and the Netherlands, which also have promising young players.

Not all World Cup players are young. International superstar Lionel Messi (35) of Argentina has said this will be his last World Cup. That could also be true of fellow top-tier footballer Cristiano Ronaldo (37) of Portugal. While they have never won a World Cup and may be slowing down, soccer is a game where one great strike or pass can swing a game. Messi and Ronaldo are capable of that kind of magic.

What about the United States? The Americans missed the 2018 tournament, so they lack World Cup experience. They are also stuck in a tough group with England (Number 5 in world rankings), Wales (19) and Iran (20). The United States would count this World Cup as a success if they can finish in the top two of their group.

Thirty-two teams. Sixty-four matches. All the greatest world soccer stars. The World Cup is must-see sports.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 27 sports books for kids including his latest soccer book, “Soccer Trophy Mystery.”