The 21st FIFA World Cup kicks off Thursday in Russia.

Journalists/wanabee soccer football insiders Mark Bergin, Eric Heubusch and Lara Saavedra attempt to answer some of the most pressing questions ahead of the World Cup.

Here’s what this year’s bracket looks like:

What’s your tweet-length prediction about the World Cup?

Mark Bergin: Uninformed Americans will be shocked to discover the U.S. did not qualify for this year’s World Cup -- something we've known since October.

Eric Heubusch: A non-European team will win for the first time in 16 years.

Lara Saavedra: The heavyweights rise to the top. Brazil, Germany or Argentina will win the 2018 World Cup.

What team will you root for since the U.S. isn’t in the World Cup?

Bergin: I’m still salty the U.S. isn’t playing in this year’s World Cup. It marks the first time the U.S. men’s national team has not played in a World Cup since 1986.

Look at the population difference between the U.S. and Trinidad & Tobago, which is the country that eliminated the USMNT; The U.S. population is about 326 million people, and the Trinidad & Tobago population is about 1.3 million people.

I’m aware the population totals aren’t all men, but the U.S. has more than 250 times more people than Trinidad & Tobago. With apologies to Trinidad & Tobago, but you’d think the U.S. could find 11 better players! Hopefully, the USMNT figures it out by the time North America hosts the 2026 World Cup.

I’m rooting for England in this year’s World Cup. “The Three Lions” haven’t won the World Cup since 1966.

England has had a history of heartbreak in the tournament. Since 1990, England has lost on penalty kicks three times in the World Cup.

Heubusch: I will root for the Japanese team. I placed a small wager on the country that will pay lucratively. If I win, I will go to Japan myself to celebrate.

Saavedra: The fact that the U.S. is not at least in contention for the World Cup is truly an embarrassment. Hopefully, the USMNT has done some soul searching for the next cycle -- but only time will tell. With that being said -- I’ll root for Argentina and Spain.

Which country wins the World Cup?

Bergin: I’m a huge proponent of looking back on what history tells us to predict what lies ahead. Eight teams have won the 20 previous World Cup tournaments.

World Cup winners:

Brazil: 5 -- Brazil is also the only team to play in every single tournament.

Germany: 4

Italy: 4

Argentina: 2

Uruguay: 2

England: 1

France: 1

Spain: 1

A team hasn’t repeated as World Cup champions since Brazil did in 1958 and 1962. For me, that eliminates last year’s winner, Germany.

Spain fired manager Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup too.

I suppose I’ll take Brazil or France. Here’s a look at the favorites to win this year’s World Cup, which are subject to change.

Heubusch: I would tell you my prediction, but I also just told you I bet on Japan, and now you don’t respect my opinion anyway.

Saavedra: Argentina. I think forward Lionel Messi and crew are good enough this cycle to win it all.

What’s your favorite World Cup prop bet?

Bergin: The over-under for the total number of matches Russian President Vladimir Putin attends is at 3.5.

I think this ultimately depends on if Russia gets out of the Group A stage.

Over 3.5 (-115) | Under 3.5 (-115)

Heubusch: Not sure about this year, but here’s a favorite from 2010: Who will retired Argentine manager Diego Maradona verbally insult first?

Saavedra: Will a team finish the 2018 World Cup without scoring a goal?

Yes +130 | No -160

(Odds courtesy of BetDSI)

Mark Bergin is a journalist with 10News WTSP. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email him at mbergin@wtsp.com.

Eric Heubusch is a researcher with 10News WTSP. Follow him on Twitter or email him at eheubusch@wtsp.com

Lara Saavedra is a journalist with 10News WTSP. Follow her on Twitter or email her at lsaavedra@wtsp.com