The 26-year-old is arguably the best defensive midfielder in the Blue Tigers’ squad currently.

Rowllin Borges has always been one of the enigmas in modern-day Indian football. The amount of unfulfilled potential in him has always been a mystery to us native fans. But unlike other midfielders, he has never disappeared from the limelight on a permanent basis. He has come and gone, on quite a regular basis; and whenever he comes back, he announces his arrival in quite some manner, ask the NorthEast United fans, they will tell you about their ‘Indian Matic’!

A cult figure amongst The Highlanders’ fans, the midfield lynchpin has slowly become a very important player for the ISL club, at times outshining his team’s much-heralded foreign exports.

Rowllin Borges’ goal against Macau

As India prepare for their toughest Group A opponent in the guise of the UAE, Stephen Constantine will have to produce a tactical masterclass, in order to register a second win on the trot in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Against Thailand, Pronay Halder was pretty decent as the main physical man in the four-man midfield alongside Anirudh Thapa, Udanta Singh, and Holicharan Narzary. But, being just decent won’t count against the West Asian side, who surprisingly drew to Bahrain in their group opener. In the past, the ATK midfield destroyer might have been at a different level than his Goan counterpart, but during the current domestic season, Borges has been a notch above. 

The 26-year-old is currently the best option India have as a defensive midfielder, based on current form. It will be a tough decision for Constantine to drop the incumbent Halder and partner the young Thapa with Borges; but is the Englishman willing to take the risk?

The Goan has scored two international goals so far

The former Sporting Goa man is adequate in front of his team’s backline. This season, he has screened his club’s defence with much aplomb, alongside his other midfield teammates.

He has a high work-rate, added with an extra bit of muscle and sinew. His commitment to NorthEast has been unbelievable, further supported by new gaffer Eelco Schattorie. The Dutchman has bought out a different kind of player in the former East Bengal lad.

In this continental showpiece, the Blue Tigers need someone like Borges. He completely embodies the team’s philosophy of sitting back, making those surging runs into channels between the backline and final third. His runs forward could really help Constantine’s cause, distracting opposition defenders from the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Thapa.


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The best thing about him as a midfielder is his strength and the rawness he possesses. When his speed combines well with his strength during one of those trademarks surging runs forward, he can be a threat for opponents to be wary off.

The only weakness Borges has, is his weak passing, which can be covered up by the visionary Thapa alongside him. Borges can also split open opposition backlines via his through-balls.

Borges has scored more goals and notched up more assists than Halder this season

In the current ISL season, Borges is the only Indian goal-getter from the four goalscorers of his team. The Goan has found the back of the net twice. He has also registered two assists. The midfield strongman has also completed 18 interceptions, which is a good number as the league high is 29.

The midfielder is also the Indian with the most number of passes this season; 671 passes in 12 games. In total, he has attempted 13 shots in 12 games. He has also made 42 tackles, which is the second-most for his club. He also has the second-most number of touches for NorthEast (789).

The numbers prove that he has been one of his club’s most consistent performers and based on current form, he deserves a starting place in the Indian XI; but faces stiff competition from Halder.

In contrast, the ATK man has not registered any goals or assists in the Indian Super League this season. He has made 18 interceptions, 333 passes in nine games, attempted five shots, 32 tackles and had 425 touches. 

Against the War Elephants, Halder had a good game, but let’s not forget the Thais are in somewhat of a decline and it will be tougher against the UAE and Bahrain. So, that is why Constantine should get the most in-form midfielder into his starting XI and that man is Borges.