The boys' friends gathered to greet them on the set for the broadcast, created to resemble a football field, complete with goalposts, nets and scattered with black-and-white footballs, while benches stood on a dais for the boys to sit on.
Speaking in public for the first time since their ordeal, the Thai youngsters looked happy and relaxed as they sat alongside Thai Navy Seals and prepared to share details of how they spent two weeks in darkness underground.
"I pass the hospital where the children are staying every day and every day I say a prayer to thank Lord Buddha for their return", said Duang, a noodle vendor, who only wanted to be identified by her first name.
"We weren't sure if it was for real", said 14-year-old Adul Samon.
"It was magical", he said.
Their discovery triggered the rescue effort that brought them all to safety over three days, organised by Thai navy SEALs and a global team of cave-diving experts.
Coach Ekkapol Chantawong has been credited with keeping the boys alive.
Passakorn Bunyalak, deputy governor of the province of Chiang Rai, said the boys would be sent home after the news conference and he was requesting their parents and journalists to hold off interviews for about 30 days.
Twelve Thai boys and their football coach, rescued from a flooded cave after being trapped, attend a press conference in Chiang Rai on July 18, 2018, following their discharge from the hospital. But by this time the tunnels had become partially flooded, forcing the group to swim back towards the cave's entrance.
"We took turns digging at the cave walls", Ekkapol said. I said: 'Do you want to go in because we have one hour?'
One of the boys added, "We used stones to dig in the cave". That represents a depth of 3.3 to 4.4 yards. "Some aren't strong swimmers however".
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Billy Wayne Ruddick, founder of fictional right-wing news site Truthbrary.org, whose aim is to take down the "mainstreme" media. Walsh told CNN on Saturday that he was tricked into reading the words off a teleprompter.
The hard mission to save the group captured the world's attention, with heads of state, celebrities and even soccer stars at the World Cup in Russian Federation sending good wishes and messages of hope to the boys and the team of divers and rescue experts. "On the first day we were OK, but after two days we started feeling exhausted".
The group's youngest member, 11-year-old Chanin Viboonrungruang, also known as Titan, said it would make him more patient.
"I fainted. I had no energy and was very hungry".
One boy was anxious about his parents. "That I wouldn't go home and I would get scolded by my mother".
For now, however, the boys are heading home to be reunited with their families and can finally enjoy some of the pork and rice they longed for while in the cave.
A doctor who treated the boys said they have each gained an average of 3kg in weight since their rescue.
The rescue effort drew global media attention and hundreds of journalists. Excitement picked up again in the usually sleepy town of Chiang Rai ahead of the much-anticipated 90-minute live broadcast on dozens of channels.
"We don't know what wounds the kids are carrying in their hearts", said justice ministry official Tawatchai Thaikaew, who asked for the boys' privacy to be respected, citing worries over the impact of media attention on their mental health.
This file photo taken on June 28, 2018 shows British caver Vernon Unsworth (C) working with with Thai army soldiers and local rescue personnel during rescue operation for a missing children's football team and their coach in Tham Luang cave.
Worldwide rescue divers have given frank interviews about the harrowing ordeal to save 12 boys and their coach.
"They felt like they were the reason he had to die and his family had to suffer", he said, adding that "Saman sacrificed his life to save us, so that we could go and live our lives".