Wales

Euro 2016: Thousands of fans welcome Wales team home in Cardiff

Wales players sing the anthem

The Wales football team have received a hero's welcome in Cardiff after their historic run at Euro 2016.

They touched down at Cardiff Airport just after 14:30 BST before boarding an open-top bus at Cardiff Castle.

Tens of thousands of fans lined the route to Cardiff City Stadium, where the team played their qualifying matches.

The Manic Street Preachers played to 33,000 people, before the players came out onto the pitch.

They re-lived their run to the semi-final in the tournament and took part in a question and answer session.

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Media captionHere are the highlights of the day Wales came home from Euro 2016

Proud Wales manager Chris Coleman said: "They didn't want to let their country down and they certainly didn't."

Speaking earlier in the day, Coleman said: "This is what it's all about, this is why the players work so hard to represent their country.

"They knew there was a nation waiting for them."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Manic Street Preachers performed the Wales Euro 2016 anthem at Cardiff City Stadium
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Media captionHands together - the Wales players start an Icelandic-style Viking clap as their parade bus reaches the stadium
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Media captionGareth Bale gives his reaction to the welcome home in Cardiff

Wales goal scorer Hal Robson-Kanu said: "We're proud that we've helped create this.

"It's been a long tournament but we're glad to be home."

His fellow goal scorer, Sam Vokes, said: "It's amazing the amount of people that have come out to welcome us.

"You're almost in a bubble when you're out in France, so to come back and see these scenes is amazing."

Image caption The Wales team outside Cardiff Castle

Several local schools had given youngsters the afternoon off classes so they could welcome the team home.

Among them was 11-year-old Maisie and her nine-year-old brother Regan, who were at Cardiff airport.

Maisie said: "I got Aaron Ramsey's autograph. The whole team were amazing."

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption The open-top bus arrives at Cardiff City Stadium
Image caption Chris Gunter and Aaron Ramsey take a snap of the crowds from a castle turret
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Media captionThousands of Wales fans greeted the team at the start of the parade

Also greeting the side was 97-year-old Nancy Plain, who received a kiss from Coleman before having her Wales flag signed.

"I nearly lost my voice during the tournament because I was cheering on the boys so much," she said.

"They did the whole country proud and I'm glad that I got to see Wales play in a major international tournament."

The celebration comes after Wales lost 2-0 to Portugal in the semi-final on Wednesday, with their historic run hailed as a performance which has "changed Welsh football forever".

Midfielder Joe Ledley missed out on the homecoming celebrations as he is heading to Ibiza to get married, but he managed to make an appearance by speaking to the team on the bus via video call.

Image caption Joe Ledley spoke to the team on the bus via a video call
Image caption Crowds gathered at Cardiff Airport to welcome the players
Image caption Ashley Williams (l) and Hal Robson-Kanu stop to sign autographs

FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford said: "The nation really wants to show the boys how impressed they are and how proud they are and I'm sure they will be out in their thousands today."

He said the stadium event "sold out pretty quickly", although extra tickets were released on Friday morning.

Cardiff council has warned fans there will be a queuing system at Cardiff Central Station and a crowd management system at Grangetown and Ninian Park railway stations from 19:30.

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption The Wales team and management arrive home

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