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NTV Beleza, entering the Cup with full power

The Nadeshiko League Cup Division 1 and 2 starts next week-end, with NTV Beleza, the Giant of Japan's women football club, starting their campaign against Nagano, on MyCujoo. Let us present you the most successful team in Japan.

NTV Beleza will be one of the favorites for the Nadeshiko League Cup in 2019 again

All pictures courtesy of J-League

By Scott McIntyre
From Tokyo__

Politically and culturally, if perhaps not in terms of football, this month marks the end of an era in Japan.

Three years ago the Japanese Emperor announced his intention to abdicate or step away from the throne, citing his advancing age as a reason and thus the ‘Heisei Era’ came to an end.

Earlier this week amidst nationwide attention, thousands of people gathered across the country and state television ran live coverage as the name of the new era – ‘Reiwa’ – set to begin at the end of this month, was announced.

Translated as ‘beautiful harmony’ the name is drawn from an ancient text but at the same time as there is coming change in one sphere of Japanese society there is far more stability in the realm of women’s football.

Dominant force

NTV Beleza have been not just the dominant force in the domestic game, they’ve been an overpowering one. It's remarkable to think that since Emperor Akihito announced his plans to abdicate back in 2016 the Tokyo-based club has only lost three league matches in that same time.

This weekend MyCujoo will showcase this powerhouse club side as the defending champion hosts Nagano Paceiro in the first round of action in the Nadeshiko League Cup.

Unique to Japanese football the cup competition is actually run separately across the two divisions with the ten Division 1 clubs facing each other and the ten Division 2 clubs doing likewise, so in effect there are two cup champions – one from the top tier and one from the division below with all of those matches available on MyCujoo.

Follow the Nadeshiko League Cup Division 1 and Division 2 on MyCujoo

The ten teams are split into two pools of five where they play home and away fixtures before the top two in each group then face off to be crowned champions in the semifinals and final scheduled to be played later in the year.

For now though the emphasis is on just how teams can stop the juggernaut that is NTV Beleza. Founded in 1981 the club is the second oldest in Japan and the only to have never been relegated from the top flight and to say they have an overflowing trophy cabinet would be an understatement.

Compare the achievements of the club to some of those from across the planet – no club in the various guises of North American football has won more than four league titles, FFC Frankfurt has seven to their name in Germany and even a club regarded as a global powerhouse in the French side Olympique Lyonnais has not surpassed the number of titles won by Beleza.

Even overlooking the 11 Empress Cups and half a dozen Nadeshiko League Cups in their keeping, the 16 league crowns they’ve collected since 1990 is a truly remarkable feat.

When you factor in a dozen runner's up finishes it gives an even more complete picture of just how utterly dominant the club is – only twice in the past 28 seasons has Beleza failed to finish outside of the top two in the league.

FIFA World Cup

Having won the last three titles in succession, it's little surprise then that the club also contributes the majority of players for a Japanese national team that are amongst the favourites to lift the FIFA World Cup trophy in France later this year.

In some way it's actually more difficult to crack the starting side at Beleza than it is to make the national squad with seven players from the XI that started in last weekend’s 3-1 league win over Urawa featuring for Japan in two friendly matches this week – along with another two off the bench.

That in addition to the absent midfielder Yuka Momiki, who was also called up for Japan, means that no fewer than ten players feature in the 23-woman squad.

Their opponents in the opening round of cup matches this weekend – Nagano – have started the new league season with two losses and a win and will need to find something special to stop the runaway train that is Beleza.

They do at least have something working in their favour though. Of the past 46 matches that Beleza has played in all competitions they've only lost twice and one of those was against Nagano early in last season's league campaign and all neutral supporters across Japan and beyond will surely be hoping they can cause an upset here.

For if Beleza continue on their dominant ways it could well be until the next imperial transition in Japan that we see this superpower of the women’s game brought back to earth.

Follow the Nadeshiko League Cup Division 1 and Division 2 on MyCujoo