South Korean international Ja-Cheol Koo was the hero of the hour for FC Augsburg on Sunday, his first-half goal giving his team a crucial victory over fellow strugglers Hannover 96.
It was Koo's fourth goal of the season, and his first since Augsburg's 4-0 victory over VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 13. With two assists to his name this season as well, the 26-year-old is an invaluable asset for Markus Weinzierl's squad.
Following his heroics against Hannover, Koo spoke to bundesliga.com about squad rotation, the Bundesliga's appeal in his homeland of South Korea, and Augsburg's historic opportunity to knock Liverpool FC out of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
bundesliga.com: Ja-Cheol Koo, you have just won an important game 1-0. What are your thoughts on the match?
Ja-Cheol Koo: It was a six-pointer for both teams today, so there was a lot of pressure. We didn't play well, but the important thing is that we got the three points.
bundesliga.com: What weren't you happy with?
Koo: In the first half, I thought we were the better team. After the break, Hannover put a lot more pressure on us, and it became a very close game in the last 20 minutes. We obviously had to sit deep in order to defend the lead, but we didn't do enough going forward to take the pressure off the defence. In the end, though, we only allowed them one major chance, and that was from a corner. It was a brilliant save from Marwin Hitz.
bundesliga.com: It was your first goal since Matchday 13. Why haven't you been able to score of late?
Koo: Sometimes I play in defensive midfield, sometimes in the centre, and sometimes on the left. You don't get so many good chances in those positions. I played as a number 10 from the start today, so I spent more time around the opposing goal. I said before the game that I wanted to score a goal for the team today. It's nice that it happened.
bundesliga.com: Augsburg qualified for the UEFA Europa League last season, but this year you're fighting against relegation. Did the team underestimate how tiring it would be to play so many games in midweek?
Koo: I don't think we underestimated it, but it's completely new territory for us. We had no experience of what it's like to play in the Bundesliga, the DFB Cup and the Europa League all at the same time. It is very tiring, and we learned that the hard way, particularly at the start of the season. But we did learn.
bundesliga.com: What exactly have you learned as a team?
Koo: Early on in the season, we were always playing with the same starting line-up. We've begun to rotate a bit more since then. I, for example, didn't start against Leverkusen or against Liverpool. It's the same situation for everyone.
bundesliga.com: If you could choose between guaranteed survival in the Bundesliga or victory against Liverpool, which one would it be?
Koo: It would be great to have both, but we obviously want to be playing in the Bundesliga next season.
bundesliga.com: How likely is it that you can knock Liverpool out of the competition?
Koo: It's difficult to say. We did really well at home, and we'll try to do the same in Liverpool. It's a huge game for us, and we'll give everything. We'll have to see whether that is enough.
bundesliga.com: Will the game be shown live on TV in South Korea?
Koo: Yes. Obviously the Premier League is the big attraction in South Korea. There used to be a huge difference, but the Bundesliga is catching up now. We notice it as players as well. The number of journalists at our games and requesting interviews has risen enormously. Our games are shown on TV even when we aren't playing teams like Liverpool.
bundesliga.com: Augsburg now have to face both Liverpool and Borussia Mönchengladbach by the end of February - those are two difficult games.
Koo: That's true, but in football, everything is possible. Almost everyone can beat everyone else in the Bundesliga. That's why the league is so exciting.