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Wales fans paint Cardiff red as Euro 2016 heroes welcomed home

Wales fans paint Cardiff red as Euro 2016 heroes welcomed home

Wales' Euro 2016 heroes have enjoyed a rapturous reception during a homecoming in Cardiff.

Chris Coleman's squad were handed the red carpet treatment after touching down at the city's airport before going on an open top bus tour of the Welsh capital - where streets resembled a sea of red as they ground to halt.

The electric and carnival atmosphere carried itself more than two miles to the Cardiff City Stadium - where 30,000 screaming supporters got in the party spirit.

Young and old rejoiced in Wales' first glorious taste of tournament football for 58 years.

Among them was 97-year-old Nancy Plain - who received a kiss from boss Coleman outside Cardiff's arrivals lounge, before having her Wales flag signed.

Mrs Plain, who was a middle aged lady when Wales played in the 1958 World Cup, said: "I nearly lost my voice during the tournament because I was cheering on the boys so much.

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

Wales' emphatic Euros saw them finish top of their group that included England, Slovakia and Russia before going on to reach the semi-finals after beating Belgium 3-1.

The side missed out on a spot in the final after a 2-0 defeat to Portugal.

However, despite the defeat the whole nation is still bursting with pride - especially after winning the bragging rights as the UK's best home nation.

First Minister Carwyn Jones, who greeted the Welsh side at Cardiff Airport, said the national team's success had helped put the country "on the map".

"The team have been a fantastic advert for Wales," he added.

"We may be only a nation of three million but we have shown to a global audience exactly what we can do - from the success on the pitch to our fantastic supporters.

"There will be people in the world who may never have heard of Wales before who will now want to come and visit us."

Several local schools had given youngsters the afternoon off classes so they could catch the homecoming parade.

Among them were 11-year-old Maisie Draper and her nine-year-old brother Regan - who were at Cardiff airport with their nan Carol from Dinas Powys.

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

Regan, whose favourite player is Gareth Bale, added: "Everyone is so excited. I can't believe I got to meet them."

Football Association of Wales bosses said the support the national side received in France and back on home soil has been nothing short of remarkable.

Chief executive Jonathan Ford said: "We feel this event is a great way of everyone celebrating what has been a historic period for Welsh football.

"The scenes we have seen both at home and over in France have been fantastic and we hope that our passionate supporters can enjoy another moment with the players to end a memorable few weeks."

The Welsh capital came to a standstill with thousands of fans lining the streets of Cardiff to catch a glimpse of the Euro semi-finalists.

An open top bus took Bale and the team to the Cardiff City Stadium, where rockers Manic Street Preachers got the party started before the Wales team took to the centre circle amid chants of "Wales! Wales!".

However, midfielder Joe Ledley missed the homecoming celebrations as he is heading to Ibiza to get married.

It had been thought the 29-year-old would postpone his wedding following Wales' run to the semi-finals.

But the midfielder said he is still heading to the Mediterranean to tie the knot with partner Ruby May on Saturday.

"The boys are going back to Wales to see the fans, but I've got a wedding to attend," Ledley said.