The World Cup finally kicks off on Thursday in the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow as the hosts Russia look to get their own tournament and the 2018 World Cup off to a flying start against Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately, yet again, Scotland are not on the biggest of international footballing stages but we are used to it by now and it certainly won’t stop us being glued to our television sets for the next month or so watching, hopefully, some top-class football.

I fell in love with the World Cup as a wide-eyed nine-year old boy watching Italia '90 from the north of Glasgow. Probably my first ever World Cup hero was the legendary Toto Schillaci who, having come in from the cold for the Italians, won the Golden Boot and almost put the home nation on his back and carried them to the trophy. The passion and colour of all the nations had me hooked. Who could forget Roger Milla and Cameroon too. It was an unforgettable tournament and still my favourite to date.

Everyone will have their own favourites they will want to win the tournament, but I think it’s high time that the samba boys from Brazil really took a World Cup by the scruff of the neck and show the class that, let’s be honest, has been missing since they last won it a staggering 16 years ago.

Four years ago they hosted the tournament and were embarrassed and booed off at their own stadium as Germany thumped them 7-1 in the semi final and then, just a few days later, the Dutch spanked a still woozy Brazilian side 3-0 in the third-place play-off.

Many of those Brazil players will still be feeling the effects of those whitewashes, but over the last 18 months Brazil have looked a completely transformed team under the new manager Tite.

Just one friendly defeat against Argentina in what was effectively an end-of-season dead rubber last summer has blotted a brilliant run of results.

Tite has been in charge for 20 games and they have won 16 of them, losing just that one. In qualifying they have only conceded three goals in Tite’s 12-game period, scoring 30 goals and are unbeaten.

Confidence is always high in Brazil when the World Cup swings around, but this time they look a more complete team and not so heavily reliant on the brilliance of Neymar.

With the dynamic Liverpool duo of Coutinho and Firminho ably supporting the superb young Manchester City striker Jesus, the men in the famous yellow jerseys look stacked with quality in the forward areas. With the bombscare that is David Luiz not making the final 23-man squad – much to the joy of many Brazilian fans – they also look watertight at the back.

As much as the supporting cast around Neymar looks real quality, he again will carry the hopes and dreams of millions of people in his home country as Brazil’s talisman.

He is the one player the Brazilian fans truly believe in. Having successfully stepped out of the shadow of Lionel Messi for a short period at club level before picking up a bad injury, he now has the chance to prove that he can outshine him at international level and once again be in the mix along with Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world.

Brazil are rightfully the bookies' favourites with the form they are in and the squad they have to choose from, but the usual suspects like Germany and Spain are sure to be thereabouts as usual at the sharp end of the tournament.

France look a very strong side too, but do they have the same big-game winning mentality of say the Germans? I have my doubts, but they certainly have plenty of quality.

It has been an usually reserved build-up for England, meanwhile, under the vastly underrated Gareth Southgate and expectations among the fans and probably even more crucially the English press, seem far more realistic for a change.

They don’t have the same pressure as previous World Cups, maybe that will result in a better overall performance from the team in general.

As a neutral tuning in, I am looking forward to seeing Peru and Iceland. Both teams have completely differing styles of play, but they will be great to watch. Perhaps one of them could spring a real surprise and get to the last four.

But it’s Brazil all the way for me in what I consider the greatest show in sport. And, in Neymar, we could have the greatest showman of all time.

And another thing

It is great to see Alan Stubbs back in Scottish football with St Mirren. Unfortunately Alan couldn’t get Hibs back into the Premiership in his tenure at Easter Road but he at the very least laid the foundations in Leith that Neil Lennon enjoys now. He will add to an already impressive cast of gaffers in our top flight. Oh, I almost forgot, he won the Scottish Cup too for Hibs which will not only guarantee him a hero’s reception when he takes on his old side, but also unlimited free drinks for life from every Hibee he comes across. Not bad eh?