The new season has brought its fair share of ups and downs for Sochaux's Slovenian defender Bojan Jokic. While things are going just fine on the international front, the left-back has yet to taste victory with his club side eight matches into the Ligue 1 season. Even so, as he tells in an exclusive interview, Jokic is determined to stay positive and is backing the Lions to make a speedy recovery.

"I've got no regrets about joining Sochaux," says Jokic, who made the move to France in the summer of 2007. "This is an excellent springboard for the rest of my career. There are a lot of good young players here, the working conditions are second to none and the atmosphere's great. What's more I'm picking up experience and playing regularly."

A transfer target for several clubs, most notably from Spain and Ukraine, the defender chose the French outfit for one simple reason. "For me regular first-team football was more important than a little extra fame. I'm only 22 and my aim is to keep on developing. I don't want to get ahead of myself."

In Sochaux we trust
Despite Sochaux's poor start to the season, Jokic is refusing to panic. "This season's been just like last year in that we haven't had much luck. We've been holding our own in most games but haven't been getting the rub of the green at vital times. It's a psychological problem as far as I'm concerned, and I'm sure things will pick up as soon as we get a couple of wins."

Although exiled in France, Jokic has not forgotten his roots, having already represented his country for many years. "I started playing when I was six and I've played for Slovenia at every age level since turning 15."

Supported at every turn by his parents, the young defender has made a name for himself in a country where football has yet to fully take root.

"It's a shame the sport's not more popular in Slovenia," he laments. "We have a lot of very good young players but the Slovenian championship isn't very strong and the infrastructure isn't that great. Unlike other European countries, France among them, football is not the No 1 sport in Slovenia."

Objective South Africa 2010
Those drawbacks have not prevented the national side from collecting seven points in their first three qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, a haul that has taken them level with Poland at the top of Group 3. The Slovenians bounced back from an opening-day draw to win their next two games, raising hopes of a return to the biggest stage of them all.

"Our goal is to reach the World Cup finals," says Jokic unequivocally. "We've got a young team, the spirit is great and my team-mates are also playing for good clubs. This team's got a lot of potential and has a great future in front of it."

Two late goals helped Jokic and Co overcome Northern Ireland on Saturday, although Wednesday's trip to Czech Republic looks a good deal more daunting, not that the Sochaux is worrying about it too much.

"We need to take at least a point. The Czechs are a solid and technically gifted team. They've got 11 great players including Milan Baros, who I came up against in a Ligue 1 match, and Tomas Ujfalusi. But if we're going to get to South Africa, we need to pick up some good results away from home."