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2022 World Cup Qualifiers: Rowllin Borges shows his worth in midfield for India

12:03 PM SGT 7/9/19
Rowllin Borges Pritam Kotal India Macau 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers
The 27-year-old midfielder fitted in seamlessly in Amarjit Singh's absence in the narrow loss to Oman....

India’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign in Round Two got off to a heartbreaking 1-2 loss to Oman at Guwahati but there were still plenty of positives to take for the Blue Tigers from their defeat.

One of the more heartening aspects of India’s narrow loss was the performance of the midfield which went toe-to-toe with that of Oman’s for much of the ninety minutes. Tired legs in the dying minutes of the game proved to the hosts’ undoing on the night but the display of the midfield has given plenty of cause for optimism for the remainder of the qualifying campaign.

Borges, in particular, was impressive in a more defensive role with the 27-year-old being one of the better performers for India at Guwahati.

India had been dealt a major blow just days before the start of the qualifiers with Amarjit Singh Kiyam picking up an unfortunate injury. The 18-year-old had been a breath of fresh air in midfield since being handed his senior India debut by Igor Stimac with his tenacity and work-rate turning him into an instant favourite of the Croatian.

Amarjit had also started to forge a promising midfield partnership with Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad and seemed like a certainty to make the playing XI for the Oman and Qatar clashes before injury played spoilsport.

Amarjit’s absence, however, was barely felt on Thursday with Borges slotting in seamlessly behind Thapa and Brandon Fernandes. The former NorthEast United FC midfielder was a constant livewire throughout the night and made several key interceptions at the centre of the park to help India regain possession.

That India were able to enjoy such a strong start to the game was largely down to their control in midfield with Borges and Thapa working in perfect tandem. Borges swept up excellently ahead of the back-four and was constantly dousing out fires with his timely tackles and interceptions. He was tidy in possession of the ball as well and displayed a good understanding with Thapa who was brilliant himself in a more advanced role.

Stimac really couldn’t have asked for much more from Borges who has seen himself fall down the midfield pecking order in recent times. However, he is once again starting to show his worth after a resurgent 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL) season with NorthEast where he managed to grab four goals and two assists in the team’s maiden run to the play-offs.

With Amarjit set for a significant spell on the sidelines with his injury, Borges’ stellar display against Oman couldn’t have come at a better time for India and Stimac. A tough away test against reigning AFC Asian Cup champions Qatar is India’s next assignment but they have reasons to be optimistic with Borges looking so solid.