With Horangi, or Tiger in English, as their mascot and nickname, Ulsan Hyundai made an immediate impact by finishing third in their debut K-League season in 1984. They went on to win the league twice, while finishing as runners-up on six other occasions to truly establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with. On the Asian scene, they stormed into the AFC Champions League semi-finals in 2006 only to lose out to compatriots Jeonbuk Motors, before failing to progress beyond the group stage in 2009.
They emerged a different team heading into this year's continental competition. Under Kim Ho Kon, who took over in 2008, they went all the way through to lift the coveted trophy, while finishing fifth in the K-League regular season. Even more impressive was their offensive mentality, which was highlighted in the knockout stage of the Champions League, during which they won all six matches to claim Asian supremacy.
The team’s core is their international quartet. Towering forward Kim Shinwook and Lee Keunho form one of the Champions League’s most formidable attacking partnerships, while the backline is bossed by captain Kwak Taehwi alongside solid goalkeeper Kim Youngkwang. In order to further enhance their potency upfront, Rafinha was recruited on loan in the middle of the season. The Brazilian striker proved his worth quickly, scoring five times in four outings as Ulsan captured the Asian laurels.
Facts and figures
Rob Landsbergen, Ze Carlos, Leandro Machado, Frank Lieberam, Victor Shaka, Kim Jongkun, Kim Byungji, Choi Kanghee, Huh Jungmoo, Oh Bumseok, Yeom Kihun, Yoo Sangchul, Choi Youngil, Kim Hyunseok
Kim Youngkwang, Lee Keunho, Kim Shinwook, Kwak Taehwi, Rafinha, Julian Estiven Velez, Lee Yong
Entering their third Champions League campaign as 2011 K-League runners-up, the Tigers took the group campaign by storm by sealing their progression as section leaders. In the process they drew two and won four, including prevailing in the last three games to advance to the knockout stage in rampant form.
They would maintain their amazing run in the consequent one-off Round of 16, edging out Japanese champions Kashiwa Reysol 3-2 to book their quarter-final showdown with Saudi giants Al Hilal. From there they proved unstoppable, winning all of their remaining five matches as they clinched their maiden Asian title. Notably, they ran out 3-0 victors in the final against Al Ahli, with the result extending their winning streak to a record nine matches.
The numbers game
27 – is the number of goals Ulsan racked up during this year's Champions League campaign as they maintained an unbeaten record across 12 games.
|27||KANG Jin Ouk|
|13||KIM Seung Yong|
|15||KIM Dong Suk|
|20||Juan ESTIVEN VELEZ|
|21||LEE Seung Yeoul|
|25||CHOI Jin Soo|
|KIM Ho Gon|