Professional soccer’s K League 1 Gwangju FC hasn’t lost in two months. After knocking off top-ranked Ulsan Hyundai, the club is looking to make history and set its sights on the Asian stage.
Gwangju, led by head coach Lee Jung-hyo, won 2-0 away from home against Ulsan in the 29th round of the K League 1 on March 3 at the Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium. Despite being away from home, the team’s intense pressing caught Ulsan off-guard, and back-to-back goals from Lee Kun-hee and Becca helped them to their 12th win in the league (9 draws, 8 losses).
The win extended Gwangju’s unbeaten streak to nine matches (four wins, five draws) since July 2 against Ulsan (0-1 loss). At the same time, the club further solidified its position in third place in the league (45 points), ahead of fourth-place FC Seoul and fifth-place Jeonbuk Hyundai, who are both on 43 points.
Gwangju’s 12 league wins are the most in the club’s history. The club booked its highest ranking since its inception, surpassing its 11 wins in the 2016 season. Gwangju’s previous best finish in the top flight was sixth place in the 2020 season (6W, 7D, 14L, 25P).
It’s interesting to note that Gwangju, the “promotion team,” has continued its late-season surge. Gwangju won the 2022 season of K League 2 with 25 wins, 11 draws, 4 losses, and 86 points, well ahead of second-place Daejeon Hana Citizens (21 wins, 11 draws, 8 losses, and 74 points).
Promoted teams usually continue their early season surge. There are a lot of variables that come into play, as they face each other without a complete power analysis. However, after the first robin, they usually fail to overcome the power disparity and fall out of contention. Gwangju also fell into a seven-match winless streak (three draws and four losses) from mid-April onward.
Under Lee Jung-hyo, Gwangju showed a different side. Starting in late May, Gwangju began to accumulate points and steadily climbed up the table, finally reaching the third spot on May 27. Lee’s tactics, which emphasize attacking soccer from all players rather than relying on a single player, have paid off. It was the first time Gwangju had been in third place in the league since February 25, when they won their opening game.
It will be interesting to see if Gwangju can keep the momentum going. If they do, they could be looking at 토토 qualifying for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League Elite (ACLE) and Champions League 2 (ACL2) in the upcoming 2024-25 season. Gwangju has never played in an AFC-organized club competition since its inception.
After the A-Match break in September, there are only four matches left before the split round. Coincidentally, Gwangju’s next opponents are FC Seoul and Jeonbuk. It’s a great opportunity for the team to consolidate their third-place position and catch up to the leaders.