Borges emphasises the importance of ‘mental toughness’ ahead of Qatar tie

There isn’t much time left before India take the field against Asian champions Qatar in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in Doha. The last time these two teams played -- in September 2019 in what was India’s second game in Group E -- they had split the points after a goalless draw. Mumbai City FC midfielder Rowllin Borges was part of that game, and ahead of the return leg on June 3, again to be played at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on account of the Covid-19 situation, he turned the clock back to that evening in which the Blue Tigers well and truly punched above their weight.

"We were motivated to do better. We were frustrated after the match against Oman [2-1 defeat]. We wanted a better result from that match but we did not get it. So, the pent-up motivation and frustration showed against Qatar. I think because of that we got a good result. It was a huge result. You could see the celebrations on the pitch. You could see that happiness. We deserved the result," Borges, presently training with the Blue Tigers in Doha, told Goal.     

"When I came back to the hotel, I did not go out of the room. I was just sitting with Mandar [Rao Dessai] and talked about the game, like how well they played and what things we could learn from them," he went on to add. 

With three points from five games in Group E, India are out of contention for the 2022 FIFA World Cup but they can still qualify for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup to be held in China. Even though things don’t exactly look propitious from the Blue Tigers’ point of view, Borges, who won the 2020-21 Hero ISL League Shield as well as the prestigious trophy with the Islanders, believes ‘mindset’ is key to getting desired results against tough opponents and in tough situations.

"You have to be mentally strong. That is the most important thing. When you are facing a team that is higher-ranked or even a team who is lower ranked the mindset is the most important thing,” he said.

On the back of his prior experience of playing at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, 28-year-old Borges also provided rave reviews to the cooling technology installed in there. "The facilities in Qatar are very good. The field and the pitch that we played and trained on were extraordinary. The cooling technology in the stadium is amazing. You know it’s very hot in Qatar. But you will get cold vibes in the stadium. It keeps you refreshed. That was the first time I had seen something of that sort in a stadium. Even at the 85th minute, you will remain fresh when that air blows. You feel that you can keep on running,” he said.

After the Qatar challenge, India will play Bangladesh and Afghanistan on June 7 and June 15 respectively at the same venue in Doha.

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