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U20 World Cup

Essien looks back to 2001 Fifa Under-20 WC and facing Kaka's Brazil

17:51 GMT+3 16/08/2018
Michael Essien of AC Milan
The Black Stars have made progress for the fourth straight time on the global order

Former Ghana international Michael Essien has taken a trip down memory lane to the 2001 Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Argentina

The midfielder was part of gallant Ghana U-20 side, including the likes of Sulley Muntari, John Mensah, John Paintsil and Derek Boateng, that fought its way to the final where they suffered a crushing 3-0 defeat to the hosts. 

After a 2-1 win over Paraguay, a 1-0 triumph over Iran and a 0-0 draw with France - all at the group stage - Ghana beat Ecuador 1-0 in the round of 16, handed Brazil a 2-1 defeat at the quarterfinals and beat African counterparts Egypt 2-0 in the semis to make the climax.  

"I have great memories of that tournament.  We had a superb run to the final, where the hosts, Argentina, beat us to the title,” Essien told Fifa.com.

"The experience will stay with me forever, though, especially as that was where I scored the one and only World Cup goal of my career, against Paraguay in our opening match. 

"I also remember our win over Kaka’s Brazil in the quarter-finals. We scored the winner in the very last minute. 

"Matches like that stay with you."

That tournament was not only a major platform for Ghana's young stars but also a giant step for the likes of 2007 Fifa World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or winner Kaka and Adriano of Brazil, Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart of the Netherlands, Djibril Cisse of France, the Czech Republic's Petr Cech and Landon Donovan of the USA. 

"[Taking part in a youth competition like this means] an awful lot," Essien went on. 

"It’s a springboard for their careers because when you play the best in your age group it’s a chance for you to progress and to get yourself noticed. 

"It’s a huge opportunity and you have to make the most of it and then keep riding the wave all the way to the highest level."

Essien has gone on to star for the likes of English giants Chelsea, Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid, Italian outfit AC Milan and French club Lyon, also playing at two editions of the senior Fifa World Cup tournament in 2006 and 2014.

He spoke to Fifa.com on the sidelines of the ongoing Fifa Under-20 Women's World Cup in France.