Not content with his solid showing in 2012, Korean footballer Koo Ja-cheol said Thursday he has set his sights on even bigger goals for next year.
The 23-year-old midfielder had a very good year. He served as the captain for the country's Olympic team that won the bronze medal at the London Olympics. Earlier in the year, he helped his first-division German club, Augsburg, climb out of the league cellar in the second half of the 2011-2012 season.
"My goal is to keep trying my best no matter where I play," Koo said before a corporate-sponsored meeting with his fans here in Seongnam, just south of Seoul. "I want to stay patient with myself and not rush anything."
Koo is visiting home during a brief midseason break in Bundesliga, the top flight German competition. He is playing in his second season with FC Augsburg on loan from VfL Wolfsburg.
Following the Olympics in August, Koo went down with an ankle injury that kept him out of action for two months. Koo said he spent the time away from the pitch looking back on his career, recovering from the Olympic hangover, and planning for his future.
"I think I used the time well, thinking long and hard about where I should go from here," Koo recalled. "I've enjoyed good tournaments at the Asian Games (in 2010) and at the London Olympics. I decided I should have even bigger aspirations for the future, and I can only grow as a football player that way."
Koo has been a mainstay on the senior national team, currently in the final stage of the Asian qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The final round is scheduled to wrap up next June, and Koo said he wants to help South Korea reach its eighth straight World Cup and also to play at the sport's grandest tournament.
"I'd love to play at the World Cup," said Koo, who has yet to play at an under-20 FIFA World Cup. "I know I have to be prepared for that and be a responsible representative for the country. World Cup qualification matches next year will fall during the German season, and whenever I am called up to play for the country, I'd like to play my part."
Koo left Jeju United of South Korea's K-League and joined VfL Wolfsburg in January 2011, weeks after leading the Asian Cup tournament with five goals as South Korea finished third. Then in February this year, Koo joined Augsburg on a loan for a season and a half.
At the time of Koo's arrival, Augsburg, which had earned its first-ever promotion to the Bundesliga, was stuck in 17th place out of 18 clubs with three wins, nine losses and seven draws. The two worst teams in Bundesliga are sent down to the lower division after each season.
In the season's final 15 games with Koo in action, Augsburg won five games, lost three and drew seven to finish the season in 14th place, safely out of the dreaded relegation zone. Koo scored five goals in that stretch.
So far this season, Koo has netted two goals in 10 games. Augsburg is once again in danger of relegation, stuck with one win, 10 losses and six draws to rank 17th.
Even as the team is struggling, Koo said he feels he is more accustomed to life in Germany on and off the field, and he wants to take the next step.
"I would like to field more offers (of transfer) from many different teams," Koo said. "To do that, I have to do something extra and get to the next level. I know I am capable of doing that. I just have to win the battle with myself." (Yonhap)