Euro 2016: Albania welcomed home as Euro 2016 heroes despite group exit

A tickertape welcome for the Albanian team
The Albanian team are greeted by fans as they return home from Euro 2016

A red-carpet welcome; an open-top bus tour; a key to the city for the captain; a 1m euro team bonus and their squad's names etched into the national football stadium.

It might sound like an odd reward for getting knocked out of the group stage with one win and a solitary goal scored. But Albania's Euro 2016 squad were feted as heroes on their return to the capital Tirana on Thursday.

Perhaps the greeting was understandable - the European Championship debutants beat Romania 1-0 in their final Group A game to record a first goal and victory in a major international tournament.

They narrowly missed out on a place in the knockout stages as one of the best third-placed teams.

Captain Lorik Cana was given the key to the city of Tirana as a sign of respect and a government minister has promised diplomatic passports.

"You have given us what we have been missing for decades," said Skender Bellova, a football radio commentator in the Balkan country.

Italian coach Gianni de Biasi said: "I think the soccer world is taking us seriously. If miracles could be built on defeats, what we did in France could be the start of a miracle. I will continue to stay on to keep working towards that miracle."

Prime Minister Edi Rama's told the team at a reception: "Your names will be etched at the entrance of the new national soccer stadium."

From left, Albanian PM Edi Rama, Captain Lorik Cana and head coach Gianni de Biasi arrive home at the Mother Teresa Airport
From left, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, captain Lorik Cana and head coach Gianni de Biasi arrive home at the Mother Theresa Airport

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