Thousands of supporters turned out in Stockholm to welcome back the Sweden players who won the country's first UEFA European Under-21 Championship title.
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UEFA European Under-21 Championship winners Sweden received a heroes' welcome from thousands of supporters in Stockholm as they returned home from the Czech Republic on Wednesday. "It's absolutely insane," Patrik Carlgren, who saved two penalties in the final shoot-out victory over Portugal, told UEFA.com.
Wednesday was a day to savour for the triumphant Swedes. When the plane carrying the squad entered Swedish airspace it was escorted by two fighter jets to Stockholm Bromma Airport. After a short stop at a hotel, the players boarded an open-top bus and paraded through the capital to Kungsträdgården park, where, according to a police estimate, around 20,000 fans, including Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, had gathered.
When the players took to the stage, they did so, to a man, with their smartphones in hand. "I wanted to catch this from my own angle," said midfielder Robin Quaison. "It will be something I can look at every now and then." The love from the Kungsträdgården masses was not lost on the Palermo player, one of six in the squad raised in Stockholm. "It's fantastic to be greeted like this in my hometown," added Quaison.
Another Stockholmer, John Guidetti, led renditions of fan chants and the national anthem before going solo to rap 'Nya Sverige', the tune Dani M composed for the squad before the tournament. The lyrics feature lines such as "Patrik [Carlgren] guards our goal", "Ludde [Ludwig Augustinsson] is the best left-back" and "we wrote history tonight". Nobody can deny that. Guidetti eventually surrendered the microphone to a fellow EURO winner, singer Måns Zelmerlöw. His tune, aptly titled 'Heroes', won the Eurovision Song Contest in May.
While the rest of the squad left Kungsträdgården intent on partying through the night, Carlgren knew he would have to curtail his celebrations after dinner. The AIK keeper travels to Finland on Thursday morning to face VPS Vaasa in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round. "I don't mind – I love to play football," he said.