Southgate’s side host Germany at Wembley on Tuesday in the latest chapter of a long-running rivalry with the Germans.
England won the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany at Wembley, but since then major tournament success against Die Mannschaft has been hard to come by.
Knocked out of the 1970, 1990 and 2010 World Cups by the Germans, England were also beaten by them in the Euro 96 semi-finals at Wembley.
Southgate missed a crucial penalty in that shoot-out loss 25 years ago and the possibility of another defeat to their arch rivals could weigh heavily on his players.
But the England manager wants the team to focus on their own qualities, rather than fear history repeating itself.
“I don’t need to demystify it,” Southgate said of the rivalry with Germany. “The history is an irrelevance for them.
“We’ve got boys born into the 2000s. It’s of no consequence to them what we did in, you know, Peter Bonetti in 1970 and what happened in 1990 and so on.
“Of course, they’re watching that stuff and getting a bit of an understanding of it but it’s not something we’re speaking to them about.
“This team have put down lots of historical performances in the last couple of years, made their own history, made their own stories and this is how they should view this game.
“It’s an opportunity. We’ve only won one knockout match in a European Championship as a country, so they’ve got a great chance to go and be the first team since 1996 to do that.”
England have grinded their way to the last 16 without defeat, but they struggled to impress in group stage wins over Croatia and the Czech Republic either side of a dour draw with Scotland.
Germany have been even more inconsistent, Joachim Loew’s side losing to France, impressing in a win over holders Portugal before barely scraping the draw against Hungary they needed to reach the last 16.
Southgate has no intention of underestimating the four-time World Cup winners.
“We have to be good enough to beat Germany and a very good German team,” he told ITV.
“I think they’ve got at least four World Cup winners, innumerable Champions League winners in that team, so although everybody’s dismissing them, very, very experienced big game players.
“We know this is a fixture that could easily have ended up being one far later in the tournament.
“They’ve come through a very strong qualifying group and we’ll have to be at our very best to win the game.”
England’s solid defence has been encouraging for Southgate, but the lack of attacking impetus has frustrated fans.
However, Southgate is irritated by the suggestion his side have been playing with the handbrake on.
“Well, those things are always our ambition,” he said when asked about playing with more freedom and speed.
“I mean we’ve played four attacking players in the matches we’ve played so far.
“We don’t say to the players ‘don’t play the ball forward’, ‘don’t move the ball quickly’, ‘don’t attack’.”
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