The Three Lions have been the nearly men in the last four years as they were semi-finalists in Russia in 2018 while also losing the Euro 2020 final last summer.
Southgate knows his side are not far away from ending a 56-year trophy drought and intends to use the time before the winter tournament to get everything in order.
“It’s firstly a brilliant challenge for us,” he said. “The team have got to a certain level and there is a lot more expectation and evidence that they can do well.
“We’re focusing on the small details that can take us from a team that are really competitive to a team that can win.
“We know we’ve still got a step to take to beat the best of the rest consistently. You’re balancing that with (the fact that) we’re still 10 months away (from Qatar) and form and fitness can fluctuate a lot over that period.
“There are things we want to get right in March and in the summer which are important building blocks and we need to pace ourselves over the year to peak at the end of the season.”
The big game experience over the last two tournaments will stand the Three Lions in good stead, while their players are getting regular exposure to huge occasions at their clubs.
Southgate says that build-up of experience could be a key factor.
“The team are improving, gaining more experience as a collective and individually. Form in the league is important and form in the big matches, even more important,” he added.
“(Big matches) are about performing under the most extreme pressure and intensity and you learn more about the players in cup semi-finals and final matches with their club. Have people got the resilience to stand up in an England shirt and thrive on those big nights?”
Southgate was speaking at the announcement of his induction into the Legends of Football half fame later this year – an achievement due to his exploits as England manager.
He has been instrumental in reconnecting the national team with the fans, with the whole country swept up by their Euro 2020 achievements.
And a major part of that was the emergence of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline – the fans’ new anthem – and when Southgate heard it being sung ahead of the last-16 tie with Germany he knew it was going to be a good day.
“I was in the dressing room and the team were out on the pitch warming up,” he added. “We were only about 40,000 at Wembley for the Germany game but that was the first time I started to hear that in the stadium.
“It was powerful. I could tell that people were excited about the game and with the team.
“You don’t often hear the crowd from the dressing room but when they were playing that and people were singing along, you could feel this was going to be a good day.”
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