Hamza Choudhury fought back tears as he described his horror tackle, and England Under-21 red card, as the worst moment of his career.
The Leicester City midfielder has issued an apology for crunching into the ankle of Lille winger Jonathan Bamba.
The flying, out-of-control lunge left Bamba in hospital having X-rays, and turned the game against Aidy Boothroyd’s team, who conceded twice in the last five minutes to crash to defeat.
England now need two wins against Romania, on Friday evening, and Croatia on Monday, in Group C to stand any chance of going to the semi-finals, with the best runner up place a slim hope.
Choudhury, 21, was “devastated” to have experienced the low of making such a high profile error, which was compounded by Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s bizarre 95th minute own goal, when he slashed into his own net.
The Leicester star said: “I don’t think I have ever felt worse in my footballing career so far than I do right now. I have let the lads down, I have let the country down.
“I can 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 understand playing at this level comes with a certain pressure.
“I will go back and think about it. The next time I get in that situation, I won’t make that tackle. Right now, I am just upset and I feel like I have let the side down.”
England’s kids have insisted they have the “spirit” to come through adversity and Choudhury revealed: “They came and they picked me up off the floor. They took me into the showers and told me to keep my head up. But right now, I can’t. I just can’t. It’s a really difficult time.
“Why am I speaking out now? I think I just wanted to let everyone know that I know I have let them down. I just want to get that message out there and really apologise.”
Boothroyd quickly rallied his troops to search for positives.
Phil Foden’s goal was “a gem” he said, and for periods England played well. They looked the most accomplished England U21 to turn up at any of the last six finals, fizzing the ball around and opening France up.
In the first half hour they dominated possession and had three good chances to score.
Manchester United transfer target Wan-Bissaka’s performance, which included a pass which gifted a chance that Moussa Dembele missed, could see his place in doubt for the Romania game.
Boothroyd may also reflect on his decision to introduce strikers, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tammy Abraham, when down to ten men, rather than fresh midfielders to bank up in defence.
It could be argued being exposed to such early tournament chaos, disappointment and scrutiny is ideal preparation for any of this group who end up playing in World Cups or European championships for seniors boss Southgate, who was at the game.
Choudhury added: “We can stay in this tournament – of course. I think we will go on and I think we will get six points. That is our aim and we will see if we can progress to the semi-finals.”
As Boothroyd warned: “It is knockout football.”