GALLERY: Welsh fans welcome home national team after historic European Championships campaign

Wales made it to the semi-finals of the Euros

BY Newstalk 20:04 Friday 8 July 2016, 20:04 8 Jul 2016

Image: Simon Galloway / PA Wire/Press Association Images

A rapturous crowd of thousands of Welsh fans welcomed the Euro 2016 squad as they landed back in Cardiff.

The tournament's surprise semi-finalists landed at Cardiff Bale Airport - as it has been renamed for the day in honour of winger Gareth Bale.

They disembarked the plane on a red carpet to be greeted by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones - before travelling to Cardiff Castle where they were met with a roar from cheering fans. 

Thousands then lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the squad as they toured the city centre in an open top bus. 

Reflecting on the historic moment from the top of the bus, star player Gareth Bale said: "It is an incredible feeling."

"There is no prouder honour than putting on the red t-shirt for Wales and to share this with all these fans is incredible."

The parade ended at Cardiff City Stadium - Wales' home ground - where a further 30,000 people welcomed the semi-finalists.

Welsh band Manic Street Preachers, who wrote and sang Wales' official Euro 2016 anthem, are due to perform at the stadium before the players are presented to the crowd.

Manager Chris Coleman's side left their Brittany base in Dinard for the final time earlier on Friday, two days after Portugal brought their remarkable Euro campaign to a close. 

The team started the competition as outsiders after becoming the first Welsh side to qualify for a major tournament since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.

The squad quickly became the stunning success story of the tournament, beating Northern Ireland and Belgium to reach the semi-final.

Wednesday's match marked the first appearance by a British team at a semi-final of a major tournament since England at Euro 96, and victory would have made them the first home nation to reach a final since the 1966 World Cup.

"It's been a privilege," Coleman had said at his final press conference before leaving France.

"When we first arrived here, we had a friendly game with Sweden that didn't go so well, so for us to achieve what we have speaks volumes for the players.

"It's not just about talent. You have to have heart and desire and that carried us through a lot of games."

Students at several schools in Cardiff were given the afternoon off to take part in the homecoming parade, including nine-year-old Regan Draper.

"Everyone is so excited. I can't believe I got to meet them," he said. One player is missing for the celebrations - midfielder Joe Ledley.

He boarded a private plane in France earlier to marry his fiancee Ruby May in Ibiza this weekend. 

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