COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - There was one last outpouring of emotion as the Denmark squad arrived back in Copenhagen following a 2-1 extra-time loss to England in their Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley that brought their rollercoaster tournament to an end.
The Danes recovered from Christian Eriksen's heart attack on the pitch in their first match and losing their first two games to blaze an incredible path to the last four where they were edged out by England on Wednesday.
"It's nice to see you, nice it's not online. This is our way of saying thank you," coach Kasper Hjulmand told reporters after the squad at Copenhagen Airport from London on Thursday.
"It's been strong, what we have been through, and now I'm starting to wail again," he said, fighting to hold back tears.
"We continue with two things - one, we want to win. We were close, and we are annoyed and disappointed. Number two, we want to inspire and unite Denmark. We will continue to do so.
"We thank you for the support, and without that support we would not have got back up on the horse, and we end by giving the people a round of applause."
The players and technical staff then clapped as a sign of gratitude to the fans who supported them during the tournament.
Many of the players had tears in their eyes as they embraced before going their separate ways.
Outside the arrivals hall they received a heroes' welcome with friends, families and well-wishers cheering as the players and staff made their way out.
"There is pride around it all, because it's been a huge journey. We have been through the whole emotional register and I have never experienced anything like this," captain Simon Kjaer said, adding he had spoken to Eriksen after the semi-final.
"He was disappointed with the result, but he's enjoying the time with his family," added Kjaer. Eriksen was resuscitated in front of shocked fans and a massive global TV audience during Denmark's first group match against Finland.
UEFA said Eriksen, his partner and six medics were invited to the final, but there was no confirmation he would attend.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and midfielder Thomas Delaney said they would not be watching the showpiece match on Sunday, when England take on Italy at Wembley.
They spoke of the friendships forged in what they described as the experience of a lifetime.
"In 20, 30, 40 years we will be able to remember this feeling. It's an incredible group we have here - we've talked about it before, but we've proven it over the last few weeks," said Delaney.
"Everything we've been through is the kind of thing that leaves a mark on your soul."
(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris)