In an exclusive interview to Afm.media, one of the greatest scorers of the history of the English Premier League, Ian Rush shares his thoughts on Euro 2020. “France and Belgium will be serious contenders for the trophy, and Italy will be the dark horse,” says the former Liverpool FC and Wales national team striker. Ian Rush is of the view that England would be there too as they will have a massive advantage playing matches on their home ground. He also thinks that fans should have an eye on Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, who scored two goals yesterday against Russia.
AFM.media: What are your thoughts on this tournament which will be held in different conditions this time with the Covid-19. Less fans in the stadium, do you think it will have an impact on the matches and players?
Ian Rush: Well, I think all the players from Europe know what the conditions are gonna be like and the good thing about the Euro is that there will be some fans at the stadium. So, I think that gives them a bit of hope. Maybe about a year ago, when there were no fans, it was difficult for the players to respond. Now, many supporters will be at the game, I think that will give the players a massive boost. Euro is always fantastic, I was there with Wales in 2016, and it was an amazing tournament. So hopefully with people being allowed to go back to the game, it’ll be a big boost to the players.
Afm.media: Speaking about Wales, we are sure that you’ll be supporting them during this tournament. You think they can make it through?
Ian Rush: It’s gonna be difficult for them to win the trophy. The most important thing for Wales is that they progress through the group stage. I looked at the group that they’re in, and I think it’s a group where they are well capable of qualifying for the next round. I think Italy will win the group, then they got Switzerland and Turkey. Wales, Switzerland and Turkey are on the same level playing field. It is a matter of who will be the best team on the pitch on the match day. I think from the experience and so on, Wales have got to win their first game.
Afm.media: What are your thoughts about the other teams? Which teams do you think will surely emerge through the Group Stage?
Ian Rush: I think it’s wide open. France would be the favourite to win it. They’ve won the World Cup, they’ll be looking to do well, they’ve got great individuals. I think Belgium is in its prime to do well. Then for me, the dark horses will be Italy. They won every single match of their qualifying groups. They have a good young side. And, I look at Spain and their young side and England of course. England is always gonna do well. They have some class players and if they win their group, lots of their games would be based in England itself. That will be a big confidence boost for the players. As they will play all the last games at Wembley, that will give them a big advantage..
Afm.Media: Your top 4?
Ian Rush: Again we don’t know the injuries and everything. France and Belgium will definitely be in there. I think Italy, they are the dark horses. Looking at their form over the last three years, they will be there. Then it will be between England or Spain. So I am gonna go with England simply because if they win their group games, their other games will be played at Wembley and that will give them a big advantage.
Afm.Media: Any player to follow?
Ian Rush: I look at France, they’ve got some great individuals. Grizeman is playing really well. People ask me about the top goal scorer, if you are looking for a top goal scorer, you have to look at Lukaku. Because he’s done well with Inter Milan this year. He takes penalties and that is a vital thing when you are looking for a top goal scorer in these tournaments. Harry Kane would be in there as well. But I think France would score probably the most goals but they’ll spread the goals out. If you are looking for an individual top goal scorer, I would say Lukaku because he is in form, Belgium has a great team and he also takes penalties.
Afm.Media: Last question, we can’t let you go without a word on your team Liverpool Football Club, which had a difficult season. Do you think they’ll bounce back next season?
Ian Rush: 100% sure, they’ll bounce back next season. Of course they missed Van Dijk last season and players were not performing. Maybe they might be cold for a long time, we don’t know. It’s been a very difficult season for Liverpool and with the fans not being there, it was their biggest problem. Liverpool’s fans are the 12th man. And Liverpool miss them more than ever. Teams were coming to Liverpool last year with the mind, “oh there is no crowd there so we can win the game”. But when the fans are here, a lot of the opposition panic when they come to Anfield. So I think Liverpool will make one or two signings. And if they do that, they’ll bounce back. Even when you look at Mo Salah, he scored more than 20 goals again. He is in form, Mane not quite in form and so is Firmino. But they will bounce back next year because there will be competitions for places. With Van Dijk back and Liverpool signing maybe two or three players, the competition for places will be there. Jurgen Klopp will have them ready for the start of the season and I’m just happy they finished in the Champions League. Because at one stage, it was a long way away. They bounced back within the last six and seventh games. I am sure now the players will be looking forward to the start of the next season. I’m 100% sure that Liverpool will bounce back.