It was striking in November's friendlies against Brazil and Belgium that coach Vahid Halilhodzic decided to drop Shinji Okazaki, Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda from the Japan squad.
But in a World Cup year, Japanese fans will be hoping that the superstar trio returns for the next international action in March, just three months before their opening Group H match in Russia.
Here are five Japan football wishes for 2018.
1. Make peace with the big three
Halilhodzic chose to go into November internationals...