Wales

Euro 2016: Team have 'changed Welsh football forever'

Wales fans applaud the team after their defeat to Portugal Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wales fans applaud the team after their defeat to Portugal

Wales fans have praised the team's heroics at Euro 2016, saying it has changed Welsh football forever.

Chris Coleman's side were knocked out of the tournament after losing 2-0 to Portugal in the semi-final on Wednesday.

It dashed their hopes of becoming the first British team to reach the final of a major tournament for 50 years.

A special homecoming event to welcome back Wales' Euro 2016 team is being organised in Cardiff on Friday.

Lewis Wells, 18, of Pontypridd, said it had "definitely" put Welsh football on the map.

Two quick goals early in the second half from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani clinched Portugal's victory - but Welsh fans remained upbeat after the game.

After watching the match in the Lyon fan zone, Mr Wells said: "It's put us out there. It's proved how good [a smaller] team can be."

He added: "It's ridiculous how proud I feel of my country.

"We lost 2-0 to Portugal in the semi-finals of the European Championships - it's unbelievable."

Lee Smith, 36, of Brecon, in Powys, said "hopefully" the team's performances could change football in Wales forever.

Image caption Lee Smith (l) with fellow Wales fan Mark Morgan

"One of the reasons is Cardiff City and Swansea City have both been better recently," he said.

"It's no coincidence... that we [Wales] are playing better."

Morgan Haggett, 17, of Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taff, also watched the game in the Place de Bellecour fan zone.

"What an amazing experience it has been," he said.

"We can finally prove to the rugby fans - this is Wales football, you know?"

The team finished top of Group B after a 2-1 win over Slovakia, a 2-1 loss to England and a 3-0 win over Russia.

They then beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in the last 16 before beating Belgium - ranked second in the world by Fifa - 3-1 in a historic victory in Lille.

Image caption Morgan Haggett (l) with Lewis Wells (c) and another Wales fan

More than 100,000 Wales fans are believed to have visited France since Euro 2016 kicked off on 10 June.

The Football Supporters' Federation Cymru believe more than 20,000 Wales fans poured into Lyon for the semi-final.

Nick True, 40, a fan who travelled from Cardiff to watch Wales in the Lyon fan zone, said the team must stay "humble" despite their success.

"If you over-egg it, then you're going to create superstars who believe the hype," he said.

"I think what we have to do is stay humble and just be like a people team."

Despite the loss at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, the side - captained by Ashley Williams - has gone further than any other in Welsh football history in a major tournament.

First Minister Carwyn Jones was among those to say how proud he was of them.

He tweeted: "Very proud again tonight. Sad it's over but @FAWales and fans fantastic throughout this historic #EURO2016. Diolch. #TogetherStronger."

Image copyright Carywn Jones/Twitter

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