Hamza Choudhury says he ‘let England down’ with red and has never felt worse

Andy Hunter in Cesena on 19 June 2019

Hamza Choudhury has apologised for his awful challenge on France’s Jonathan Bamba and described the dismissal that cost England in their European Under-21 Championship opener on Tuesday as the worst moment of his career.

The England midfielder admitted he let down his team with the foul that led to Bamba going to hospital and prompted a VAR review to upgrade his yellow card to a red. Aidy Boothroyd’s side were leading 1-0 at the time but the 10 men succumbed to two late goals and a defeat that jeopardises their chances of reaching the semi-finals.

Choudhury apologised to the France bench in the immediate aftermath of damaging Bamba’s ankle ligaments. The Lille forward has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament. After the game a visibly upset Choudhury extended the apology to the England team and their supporters.

“I just want to let everyone know that I know I have let them down,” the 21-year-old said. “I just want to get that message out there and really apologise. I remember that the ball was there to be won but, honestly, watching back it looked like I was over-aggressive. It wasn’t malicious and I didn’t want to hurt him whatsoever.

“I saw the ball and tried to take it but I mistimed it. I don’t think I have ever felt worse in my footballing career than I do right now. I have let the lads down, I have let the country down. I understand playing at this level comes with a certain pressure.”

The Leicester midfielder will be suspended for Friday’s must-win Group C game against Romania, who beat Croatia 4-1 on Tuesday, and will discover that day whether the ban will stretch to two matches. The red card was the second of Choudhury’s senior career – the first coming on loan at Burton more than three years ago.

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“I will go back and think about it,” he said. “The next time I get in that situation, I won’t make that tackle. Right now, I am just upset. The lads were brilliant with me to be honest; they picked me up off the floor, they told me to keep my head up. But right now, I can’t. I just can’t. It’s a really difficult time.”

Choudhury’s Leicester teammate Demarai Gray has claimed England remain the best team in the tournament despite the loss to France and will not be unnerved by their precarious position in the group. Boothroyd’s players must back up Gray’s confidence against Romania on Friday or their chances of securing a route to the semi-finals, possibly via the best runners-up berth, will be gone.

“I know the players we have in the team,” Gray said. “I thought the goal [by Phil Foden] was different class and he is the youngest here. There is quality in the team. I believe we are the best team here. We lost in an unfortunate way but there is still every chance to go through. We are not worried.”

Gray was among the culprits as England squandered several excellent chances but, despite the manner of defeat, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka slicing into his own goal in the 95th minute, the 22-year-old said the squad remained united.

“Everyone is hurting but the spirit is fine. No one is on to each other, no one is down.”

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