The defender admits he took an unnecessary risk by getting too close to the midfielder, but also insists that he never meant to cause him any harm
Antonio Rudiger has denied biting Paul Pogba in Germany’s defeat to France, but does concede that the pictures of the incident looked “unfortunate”.
France opened their Euro 2020 campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Germany, who are now facing an uphill battle to qualify from Group F.
A Mats Hummels own goal proved to be the difference between the two sides, while Rudiger was perhaps a touch fortunate not to receive any punishment from match referee Carlos del Cerro Grande after a bizarre clash with Pogba.
Towards the end of the first half, Rudiger was caught on camera pushing his face close into Pogba’s shoulder, before then reaching his arms around the Manchester United midfielder’s chest.
Pogba then appeared to complain to Del Cerro Grande that he had been bitten, but the match official decided against brandishing a card for the Chelsea defender.
What has Pogba said?
Pogba described Rudiger’s actions as more of a “nibble” than a bite in his post-match interview, while insisting that he never wanted to see the German star sent off.
“We’re friends,” he said. “This was nothing big. I’m not crying for yellow or red cards for such actions. He nibbled, I think, a little bit on me.
“I felt it, I told the referee, he takes the decisions and he took the decision. He hasn’t received any card and I think it’s better like this. I don’t want him to be suspended because of this.”
Rudiger has admitted that the incident looked bad on television, but also insists he never meant to cause Pogba any harm and that referee took the correct stance by not awarding him a yellow or a red card.
“I should not come close with my mouth to his back, no doubt about it. It looks unfortunate,” the 28-year-old told reporters after the game. “Paul and I have talked about it as friends after the final whistle.
“And he stated in our little talk and talking to the press that it was no bite, as some viewers first thought it was. Even during the match, the ref told me that he would have punished me if he thought that it was violent conduct.”
Germany will now start preparing for a crunch showdown against holders Portugal on Saturday afternoon, which they cannot afford to lose as they bid to bounce back and reach the last 16.
World champions France, meanwhile, are scheduled to take on Hungary, who were beaten by Portugal 3-0 in their opening game, on the same day.