Iceland's heroes welcomed back to Reykjavik

Having reported on Iceland's incredible UEFA EURO 2016 run, Jóhann Sigurdsson joined an estimated 10,000 supporters to welcome the squad back to Reykjavik.

Iceland homecoming

Iceland's UEFA EURO 2016 squad were welcomed home to a packed Reykjavik city centre on Monday night after their historic quarter-final run.

Crowds had started to gather on Arnarholl hill about 90 minutes before the team were scheduled to arrive. The atmosphere built up steadily until the open-top bus ferrying the squad drove down towards the stage.

It's difficult to put a number on exactly how many people came to congratulate their heroes, but easily close to 10,000 made the trip. It was unbelievable to see, with so much positivity across the country after the side's exploits in France. The impact the tournament has had on Iceland as a whole has simply been wonderful to witness.

This is something I never expected to experience during my lifetime. The bus barely moved once it got to the city centre, with hordes of people surrounding it as it nudged forward – a familiar sight in places like Madrid and Manchester of course, yet completely unprecedented in Iceland.

Sigurdsson still proud as Iceland bow out
Sigurdsson still proud

When the bus drove the last few metres, the massed ranks began an impromptu rendition of "Ég er kominn heim" (I'm home), the song supporters had chanted before every game at the finals. The sheer amount of fans joining in made it even more special, unforgettable in fact, and I had goosebumps throughout.

The players and staff then took the stage to a rapturous ovation, with outgoing coach Lars Lagerbäck getting one of the biggest cheers. Clearly emotional, he spoke about the incredible backing his team have received: "What I see here today is more impressive than what I saw in Paris. The support is unbelievable. Every time I come here I feel like I'm home."

Iceland's French adventure has amplified people's national pride, with the joy unmistakeable everywhere and written on every face. Lagerbäck's former co-coach and now successor, Heimir Hallgrímsson, also talked about how much the popular groundswell has meant to the squad.

Watch Iceland's celebrations after their win over England
Iceland celebrate their win against England

"This has shown us how strong we can be when we stick together," he said. "It's just amazing being Icelandic when the atmosphere is like this. We are immensely proud of being Icelanders today."

Lagerbäck has now retired from his managerial duties with Iceland, and Hallgrímsson spoke in glowing terms about the Swede, who took the reins in 2011. "He will continue to be in our hearts, just like he has said that we will be in his."

The onus now is on Hallgrímsson to continue the fine work the two have carried out over the last five years, and there is a real sense of optimism going into the FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Iceland are in a very difficult group, but they have shown time and again they can beat anyone on their day.