Hwang Ui-Jo Could Help Gamba Osaka Push for a Top Three Spot Next Season
2018 was a mixed season for Gamba Osaka, with the Suita-based club finishing ninth in the J-League table. They will enter the 2019 campaign with much loftier ambitions, however. Fans were delighted to hear that striker Hwang Ui-Jo signed a contract extension at the beginning of December and he will begin next season as a Gamba Osaka player.
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Gamba Osaka are no strangers to success, but they’ve suffered a barren patch recently and have failed to trouble the top two since 2015. They will be hoping that their talisman can help fire them up the table next season. The South Korean is certainly up for the challenge. He netted 16 times in 2018 and was also voted Korean Football of the Year following his heroics at the Asian Games. He was a controversial inclusion in the squad but his hat-trick against Bahrain in the group opener helped silence his critics.
South Korea went on to clinch their second consecutive gold medal with the striker helping himself to nine goals along the way. There has been talk of a potential move to Europe, but he is set for an extended stay in the J-League and that will increase Gamba Osaka’s chances of success next season.
His side ended the season with nine wins from their last ten games. If they can carry that momentum into 2019, they could be hard to stop. They are likely to be a double-figure price for success when the J-League betting at William Hill is released ahead of the new season, and they are likely to have plenty of backers. Hwang Ui-Jo is also likely to be prominent in the top goalscorer market with only two players, Jo and Patric, outscoring the Korean in 2018.
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Hwang Ui-Jo is still young and he’s still learning his trade. Still, his future looks extremely bright and Gamba Osaka have a huge talent on their hands. He made a fast start to the campaign, netting four times in March, and he will hoping to get off to a similarly speedy beginning in 2019.
The potent finisher has been included in South Korea’s 23-man squad for January’s AFC Asian Cup, which will take place in the UAE and he will be looking to impress once again. He won’t be afforded much chance to recuperate following a busy twelve months. Gamba Osaka fans will be keeping a keen eye on his progress at the tournament. They will be desperately hoping that he doesn’t pick up an injury whilst representing his country in the competition.
Despite their end-of-season flourish, they still finished 21 points behind J-League champions Kawasaki Frontale. They won four of their last five matches and they are likely to be frontrunners again next year. Despite failing to win any of their last five games, Sanfreece Hiroshima still managed to clinch the second position and are unlikely to be any weaker in 2019. Consadole Sapporo and Urawa Reds will also be hoping to replicate their top-half finishes.
The future looks bright for Hwang Ui-Jo and Gamba Osaka, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see 2014-champions challenging at the top of the table in 2019.