From a public relations standpoint, England’s Russian summer has been a runaway triumph – with the bond between supporters and players tangibly rebuilt and scenes of riotous celebrations marking a penalty shoot-out victory over Colombia that has been 22 years in the making.
But Southgate, whose stock is rising with each passing day and every adulatory social media meme, is approaching Saturday’s eagerly anticipated clash against Sweden with a sense of perspective.
“We have made progress but we haven’t achieved success yet,” he told FIFA.com.
“My feet are firmly on the ground. I’ve been in football for 30 years, and I’ve had plenty of ups and downs.
“That night (against Colombia) was a great night for all of us but my focus was pretty quickly on to Sweden because we are in the last eight of a World Cup.
— England (@England) July 5, 2018
“We want more of those experiences and we want to go as far as we possibly can.”
At the outset of the competition, consensus suggested a place in the last eight would be a good effort from Southgate’s youthful squad. But the goalposts have been shifting in recent days and even the level-headed manager has shifted his sights.
He told ITV: “We’re at stage where we could go home now, get a nice reception – we’ve won a knock-out game, a shoot-out – or we can go stages further and really have made a difference and created our own history.
“We said before we came we wanted to make the nation proud, a way of us behaving to do that, but we needed to win some football matches as well.”
Southgate also revealed that the enjoyment of fans back home was having a clear impact on the squad.
The number of travelling fans has been well down on recent tournaments, for a variety of reasons, but the celebratory scenes of supporters the length and breadth of England have not gone unnoticed in camp.
“The power of football to connect people can’t be underestimated,” he said.
“It’s nice to see that people are happy, are talking about it at work and it’s a privilege to have that opportunity.”
“The players are excited because a lot of their experiences with England, they’ve felt isolated in camp and had to fight against the tide. They feel supported and a real collective energy.
“The players are responding to the warmth, the encouragement. The team talks have to change, there’s a warm glow of having done well in games.
Southgate also sounded a note of caution about Sweden, whose current FIFA ranking of 24 places them 12 behind England and eight below Colombia.
That is potentially misleading given the qualified ahead of Holland, beat Italy in a play-off and topped the group which Germany finished bottom of here in Russia.
“They’re a team I respect enormously,” Southgate said.
“They have a very clear identity and have had absolutely incredible results, really, against more favoured countries with bigger reputations.
“I’ve played enough matches against Sweden over the years and watched them enough in tournaments to know how strong they are.”
Kompany discussed his team’s style of play and what makes them so successful in the lead-up to the clash, which takes place on Friday in Russia.
“We have a physical squad but our game and our DNA is definitely to play passes between the lines and play passes on the floor,” he said.
See Kompany’s extended comments on facing Brazil in the video below.
Argentina’s 1986 World Cup-winning captain claimed Colombia suffered a “monumental robbery” in the last-16 tie on Tuesday after England were awarded a penalty for a foul on Harry Kane.
Maradona said American referee Mark Geiger “knows a lot about baseball but has no idea about football” and also criticised FIFA for appointing the official to the match.
His remarks earned him a rebuke from tournament organisers FIFA, whom it is understood pay Maradona around $10,000 a game as part of its ‘Legends’ ambassador programme.
Maradona, 57, has now has now expressed regret for his comments in a post on Instagram.
He wrote: “Taken by the excitement of supporting Colombia the other day, I said a couple of things and, I admit, some of them are unacceptable. My apologies to FIFA and its president.
“As much as I may sometimes have opinions contrary to some refereeing decisions, I have absolute respect for the work – not easy – that the institution and the referees do.”
Tomado por la emoción de hinchar por Colombia el otro día, yo dije un par de cosas y, admito, algunas de ellas son inaceptables. Mis disculpas a la FIFA y a su presidente: por mucho que a veces yo pueda tener opiniones contrarias a algunas decisiones arbitrales, tengo absoluto respeto por el trabajo - nada fácil - que hacen la institución y los árbitros.
Maradona, who was photographed in a Colombia shirt before the match, had accused England players of conning Geiger and said the referee should have reviewed, and then overturned, the penalty decision.
He told Venezuelan television channel Telesur: “The penalty was not a penalty; it was a foul by Kane… Why didn’t he use VAR?
“Today I saw a monumental robbery on the pitch.
“I screamed at Colombia’s equaliser as though I had been the one to head that ball because it’s not possible – you have to denounce this.
“As the captain of legends, I have to tell (FIFA president Gianni) Infantino this cannot be left like this. This is a fatal mistake for a whole country.”
FIFA, the world governing body, responded to those remarks with a strong statement.
It read: “FIFA strongly rebukes the criticism of the performance of the match officials which it considers to have been positive in a tough and highly emotional match.
“Furthermore, it also considers the additional comments and insinuations made as being entirely inappropriate and completely unfounded.
“At a time when FIFA is doing everything within its power to ensure principles of fair play, integrity and respect are at the forefront of this World Cup and how the organisation is now run, FIFA is extremely sorry to read such declarations from a player who has written the history of our game.”
Maradona has been by far the most high-profile and contentious of the numerous FIFA Legends at Russia 2018.
At one game he was spotted breaking stadium no-smoking laws with a lit cigar and making slant-eyed gestures towards some South Korean fans. At another he made offensive gestures to Nigerian fans after an Argentina goal and later had to be given treatment after an apparent collapse.