The Indian men's hockey team created history and silenced their critics with a fluent 3-1 win over Great Britain at Tokyo Olympics. Manpreet and co. will now face Belgium in the semi final which are scheduled for Tuesday.
The win assumes added significance on account of the fact that the young Indian forward line displayed their class on the world stage after a fair bit of controversy had been generated following the team selection.
Veteran striker SV Sunil and Akashdeep Singh - who was once touted as being India's most talented forward - found no place in Graham Reid's side much to the dismay of Indian hockey fans who questioned the thought process behind the selections.
The inclusion of youngsters like Shamsher Singh and Gurjant - who has been in and out of the team, brought into focus the experience angle and whether lack of it in the ranks could lead to the team dishing out an under-par performance in Tokyo.
The forward line failed to click in the opening group matches and the Indians seemed overly dependent on PCs. The first glimpses of brilliance were observed during India's last group match against Japan, but the manner in which the men up-front performed in the Olympic quarterfinal was quite enough to delight their fans who are now backing the young squad to go all the way in Tokyo.
Dilpreet Singh who had scored in the Australia game with a deft touch, found the mark again, in the 7th minute as he slipped one in between Ollie Payne's legs while Gurjant's lighting-fast strike in the opening seconds of Q2 stunned the opposition.
Yet, it was Hardik Singh's 57th-minute strike that evoked memories of greats like Dhanraj Pillay, as he displayed mesmerizing stick skills to weave his way past the oncoming defenders and yet manage to take two shots on goal - after the first was stopped - to score an absolute stunner that sealed the deal for India.
Interestingly, the Indians did not earn a single PC on the day.
The Indians will need their young strikers and attacking midfielders to fire in the big match against Belgium and given the form they displayed in the quarterfinal match, a humdinger is on the cards on Tuesday.
Few would now question Reid's team selection after a resounding show which has led to a historic place in the semifinals as a young Indian side show the world what they are all about.