Any Welshman who scores the winning goal in Thursday’s ‘Battle of Britain’ clash against England will write themselves into their nation’s footballing folklore, according to Welsh legend Ian Rush.
Chris Colemen’s team hit the ground running at Euro 2016 last Saturday on their European championship finals debut with a 2-1 win over Slovakia to top Group B as England drew 1-1 with Russia.
Wales’ star Gareth Bale has upped the ante in Lens by saying Coleman’s squad show more “passion and pride” than England, comments Three Lions’ boss Roy Hodgson dubbed ‘disrespectful’.
England start as favourites in Lens having won their last three games against Wales without conceding and have claimed victory in 68 of the 103 games between the rivals.
Rush was in the starting line-up 32 years ago, the last time Wales beat England in 1984 when Mark Hughes scored the only goal of the game and Liverpool’s Welsh legend is relishing the clash.
“Whoever scores the winner against England will be a hero here for the rest of their lives, that’s one thing for sure,” said Rush, who hit 28 goals in 73 appearances for Wales over 16 years.
“It’s always for bragging rights. England will be favourites to beat us, but anything can happen in a game like that.”
The 54-year-old former hot-shot is Wales’ ambassador at Euro 2016.
But with thousands of Welsh fans heading to Lens for the England game, Rush wishes a larger venue was being used than the compact Stade Bollaert-Delelis, which has a capacity of 35,000 for Euro 2016.
“It’ll be an incredible game, it’s just a pity it’s in a stadium which only holds some 30,000, there will be a lot of Welsh fans over there, so it will be really special, if they can beat England,” said Rush.
The Liverpool hot-shot says the fortunes of Coleman’s side has created a buzz around football in rugby-mad Wales by qualifying for France and getting a winning start.
Regardless of the Wales’ teams fortunes in France, Welsh football is set to get a further boost next June when Cardiff’s Principality Stadium hosts the Champions League final.
“It’s a massive coup for Cardiff to get the Champions League final,” said Rush, who played in two European Cup finals for Liverpool and finished on the winning side in 1984.
“It’s also good for the country. People will start talking about us and wondering where Wales is on the map, just like they are doing now after we have qualified (for Euro 2016).
“To have the Champions League final here is good for the whole country of Wales.”