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For anybody who loves football, the World Cup is the time to enjoy it

The eagerly anticipated World Cup will be upon us in a few days when the month-long tournament kicks off on Thursday in Brazil.

Fans around the world will be watching and following the progress of their teams as the tournament moves into high gear with matches every day for the first 15 days before a rest day on June 27 and then the knockout stage in three weeks’ time.

Hosts Brazil will play in the first match on Thursday when they meet Croatia in Group A. If Brazil play to their plan and are not intimidated by the pressure of playing at home, they have a good chance of success. It is in their country, their own people will be backing them and let’s hope the five-time winners can deliver, as they are always an exciting team to watch. They are favourites to win their group containing Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon and, after that, who knows?

There are other good teams to watch out for such as Spain, the defending champions, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Germany. It’s going to be a wide-open tournament and one that will be difficult to predict.

Other South American and Central American teams could find the conditions to their liking, but then again it depends on what areas of the country they are playing in. If they are in the mountains, it will be a bit cooler and in the low lands it will probably be a lot hotter. For the South Americans who play in Europe that should not be a problem. I’m sure they will be glad to have some sun on their backs.

Colombia have been hit with a huge blow, with Radamel Falcao, their star striker, ruled out after failing to recover from a knee injury that he suffered in January. He was one of their main threats and I don’t know how much that is going to hurt them because he is a great player.

To be asked my tip for the semi-finals is a tough call because football is so unpredictable. I would think teams like Brazil and Germany will be serious contenders, while you can never count out a team like Italy because they defend very well. Holland look young and solid. I saw them play the other day and they looked good, and even England, with the young team they have, although there is an injury scare to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after their latest friendly against Ecuador on Wednesday, when he fell awkwardly and damaged knee ligaments.

When the tournament begins, matches will come fast and furious, with three matches set for next Friday, when one of my teams, Holland, play Spain. I like Holland’s very open and entertaining style of football.

For anybody who loves football, this is the time to enjoy it. I was talking to a lady the other day, a prison officer, and she knows more about football than some of the guys who play. It is good hearing her talk about football; you get a different perspective.

Today I’ll be up at Port Royal for the fundraising golf tournament that Somerset Cricket Club are putting on — along with a banquet next Friday at The Fairmont Southampton — for a scholarship that will bear my name. I’m honoured and over the moon that they are doing something like this and I’ll try to be worthy of the gesture and help them out the best I can.

If we can get enough funds in to give the children scholarships for college, the whole country benefits in the long run. Not everybody can become a professional footballer like I did, but having good academics is even more important, as it helps prepare you for life after sports.

To those people out there telling them that they can become a professional athlete, it is not that simple and takes a lot of dedication and hard work. My advice to young people today is to make sure you get an education first.

I just read where the average player in the Premier League earned £1.6 million last season — about £31,000 a week. Over the course of their careers, the top players make enough to be quite comfortable when they retire, but some of them do not handle the money wisely.

Wayne Rooney makes something like £300,000 a week and if he is broke after retirement, something is wrong. They need to be reminded that football careers are short and can end abruptly. When that happens, there needs to be something to fall back on.