It’s a fateful time for Jeonbuk Hyundai: two back-to-back games against tough rivals. It is safe to say that the fate of the first half of the season lies in the last game of May and the first game of June, which will be played away and at home.
Jeonbuk will play the Pohang Steelers at Pohang Steel Yard on the 29th in the 15th round of the Hana OneQ K League 1 2023. It’s a tough match against Pohang, but the team is confident. After 14 rounds, Jeonbuk is in seventh place with 5 wins, 3 draws, and 6 losses and 18 points. They are unbeaten in four consecutive league games (W2 D2). Including the FA Cup round of 16, they are unbeaten in five matches.
To put it bluntly, joining the championship race is unrealistic. Defending champions Ulsan Hyundai are far ahead with 12 wins, one draw, and 37 points. With more points dropped than won, it’s almost impossible for them to challenge for the title.
The reasons for the fall were clear. The team’s generational change was expensive, and certain positions were heavily skewed. Poor scouting that brought in a lot of underperforming foreign players, a physical system that wasted time in winter training, and a lack of quality on the bench combined to turn the team into a ‘neighborhood drum’.
Luckily, it was a belated comeback. There’s plenty of room for pride, even without a title challenge. The improvement in their play is as encouraging as their unbeaten record. The team has also regained its distinctive team color, “Dakgong” (shut up and attack), to some extent. This is why acting head coach Kim Doo-hyun is confident that “Jeonbuk is back.”
However, the next two games are a different story. After the trip to Pohang, which is in second place with 24 points (6 wins, 6 draws, 2 losses), Jeonbuk will host Ulsan in the ‘Hyundai Derby’ at Jeonju World Cup Stadium on March 3. Both teams lost in their first meeting this season. We lost 1-2 away to Ulsan in the season opener, and we lost 1-2 at home to 안전놀이터 Pohang on the first of last month. Not only were both losses come-from-behind, but injuries, errors, and sending-offs all played a role. It was an early setback in the championship formula of “take all the points you can get and don’t give points to tricky opponents”.
Jeonbuk declared a total war. A strong counterattack from Pohang, who celebrated their 50th anniversary, is expected, but in terms of desperation, the ‘nowhere to fall’ visitors seem to be stronger. And while dropping three points won’t help them chase down the leaders, they must also catch Ulsan to restore their pride. While the team is missing its most in-form central midfielder Baek Seung-ho due to an adductor muscle micro-tear (2-3 weeks), Jeonbuk is nearing full strength with the return of its injured players and should be able to operate at close to 90% capacity.