After a weekend of dramatic quarterfinal action that saw each game decided in a completely different manner, the 2018 World Cup is down to its final four. "Our preparation for the game has been identical".
"I do not think about the Golden Ball".
"As a player if you can perform at your regular level in these games then very often that's more than enough because people can be inhibited in big matches".
"England are one of the favourites to win the World Cup and you have to respect that", he said.
Just one match separates England from their first World Cup final since 1966 and Croatia from their maiden appearance in the summit clash of the mega event as the two sides set to lock horns in the mouth-watering semi-final clash at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Wednesday. But we have approached it the same way, a lot of guys enjoying our football and enjoying it at the time. "All the way through we have been one of the youngest teams in the tournament, the least experienced team, but we were never quite sure how far this team could go", said Southgate.
Gareth Southgate has created an exciting young squad, built upon an attractive style of play and a fearless attitude rarely seen from English sides in global football.
Croatia will provide a stern examination with their world class midfield of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic pulling the strings.
With an average squad age of just over 26 and fewer combined caps than any other participating team, Southgate knows there is still plenty of room for improvement.
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"That's exactly what I asked our fitness coach as well", said Southgate in Moscow. Although they've yet to beat anyone elite, they've struck upon a formula that brings out the best in players like Jesse Lingard, Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire, and really shouldn't mess with a thing - especially on set pieces, from which they've scored six goals.
"So we're excited about the future but we also want to make the most of the opportunity we have tomorrow".
It's not just the fans back home who are enjoying England's historic run to the last four; the players and staff are equally exuberant.
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Strong, mobile, indefatigable and good in the air, Mandzukic looks to make life as hard as possible for the defence, stretching play to allow the likes of Modric the space they need to get into the danger zone around the box.
"We were not certain what this team might be capable of", Southgate admitted to ITV, mindful of England's many recent failures.
And Southgate believes winning the World Cup this year would be even bigger than Sir Alf Ramsey's side doing so 52 years ago.