Beaten semi-finalists Wales are set to return to a heroes’ welcome when they touch down in Cardiff tomorrow following their enterprising run to the latter stages of Euro 2016.
Wales defied the odds to reach the last four of their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup, only for a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal to abruptly end the fairytale journey with a 2-0 victory in Lyon on Wednesday.
A celebratory open top bus tour around the city, starting at Cardiff Castle, is planned, while a sell-out crowd of 33,000 fans is expected to gather at the Cardiff City Stadium to greet the players.
“We feel this event is a great way of everyone celebrating what has been an historic period for Welsh football,” said Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford.
“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.”
Wales were the first nation to reach the semi-finals of the European Championship on their tournament debut since Sweden in 1992, but were unable to reproduce the verve and panache of previous matches, which included a commanding 3-1 quarter-final victory over Belgium, in the last four against Portugal.
Manager Chris Coleman and players such as Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Joe Allen of Liverpool all spoke in the aftermath of Wednesday’s defeat about the importance of Euro 2016 not being a flash in the pan, with further appearances at major tournaments the goal.
Coleman said: “We’ve now sampled tournament football. We want more of that. We need some more of that.”