Auxerre's Korea Republic striker Jung Jo-Gook, who scored his first goal in French football last weekend, says he is convinced his club will avoid relegation from France's top division. Jung, a January signing from FC Seoul, came off the bench to claim a late equaliser in Auxerre's unexpected 1-1 draw at defending champions Marseille last Sunday.
The goal meant Marseille slipped from first to second place in the title race, but it was not enough for Auxerre to put clear daylight between themselves and the drop zone. Despite Jung's intervention, Auxerre slipped a point closer to the relegation places, but he believes Jean Fernandez's side will manage to haul themselves away from danger in their five remaining games.
"I'm certain that Auxerre will still be in Ligue 1 next season," said Jung in an interview with the Ligue 1 website, www.ligue1.com. "The atmosphere around the club is great and everyone is determined to keep the club up."
Auxerre go into Saturday's home game with Montpellier knowing that one false move could see them slip into the bottom three, but Jung rejected the suggestion that playing under pressure could hinder the team. "No, not at all," said the 27-year-old. "I don't feel the pressure or stress. All I want to do is help the team."
Jung's arrival in January made him the third Korean player currently plying his trade among France's elite, alongside Monaco striker Park Chu-Young and Valenciennes' 19-year-old forward Nam Tae-Hee. The Auxerre frontman said he was in regular contact with his two countrymen, but admitted he had initially struggled to adapt to his new surroundings in western Europe.
"We speak regularly, although only over the phone at the moment," said Jung. "It is true that the fact that they are playing in Ligue 1 was one of the main motivating factors for me choosing Auxerre above other European clubs. At first, it was really difficult to adapt.
"There is an enormous cultural difference and the difference between the football played in France and in my home country is huge too, but thanks to the coach and my team-mates, I have managed to adapt over time to my new team and to life in Auxerre."
A former South Korea international, Jung has since slipped out of the international picture and was not a member of the youthful squad that finished third at January's Asian Cup in Qatar. He says he is hopeful that a successful stint in France could help him force his way back into national coach Cho Kwang-Rae's plans.
"Playing for AJA is really helping me improve as a player. If our national coach likes what I am doing in Ligue 1, then I would like to get the chance to play for the national team and show how far I have improved."
After Montpellier, Auxerre tackle seven-time French champions Lyon and Jung said he was looking forward to testing himself against players such as France's Hugo Lloris, Argentine Lisandro Lopez and Brazil international Michel Bastos.
"It is true that Lyon are one of the best-known French teams back home in South Korea," he said. "They have even taken part in international tournaments staged in our country on several occasions, so it will be very interesting to play against such a big club as them. That said, I think our desire to win the game will be greater than Lyon's."