The Three Lions face the first leg of their Euro play-off in Wolverhampton on Friday and preparations for the tie are underway at St. George’s Park.
Southgate’s squad met up on Sunday evening and after winning nine out of ten games in the qualifying group stage, the former England defender feels the group are ready for the next stage.
England U21s v Croatia U21s
UEFA Euro Championship
Play-off first leg
5.45pm, Friday 10 October 2014
Molineux, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Live on BT Sport
Call 0871 222 1877 for tickets
"They’re a group who have risen to every challenge that’s been asked of them this year," he said.
"They’ve worked really well together, played some really exciting football and learned an awful lot as well.
"I’m looking forward to seeing them play, they’re a pleasure to work with and I like watching them play, with their style of play.
"They’re good footballers and we’re a team that likes to pass the ball. That’s the basis which we wanted to implement from when Steve [Holland] and myself first worked with the team.
"It’s just a case of them producing that style of play in a slightly higher profile game now.
"Whatever happens over the next five or six days, this has been a year of great progress, learning and improvement for them as individuals and as a group.
"I don’t just want to win, unfortunately for them, I want to win playing the way we’ve played throughout the year so we’re making it that bit harder for them.
"That’s the level that we want to develop."
Southgate has had to contend with a number of changes to his squad over the last 13 months since the Euro qualifying campaign began in September 2013.
In that time, the likes of John Stones, Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw have all played a part for the Under-21s before moving up to Roy Hodgson’s senior ranks.
That’s something which Southgate has been more than happy to see and has allowed him to utilise a full squad of players, as witnessed in the victory over Moldova last month.
"The group has changed in its dynamic, as it often does in this age group, throughout the campaign," he added.
"We have one or two who have been a significant part of it and are now missing, people like James Ward-Prowse, Jesse Lingard and Nat Chalobah, so it’s a shame for them that they miss out on the best experience they would be getting at this stage.
"But we’ve always kept the squad involved and given people matches throughout and it’s not been the case of having a ‘First XI’ with everybody else kicking their heels.
"We’ve played players and given them opportunities and we made a few changes for Moldova last month which will probably benefit us on Friday."
With a place at next summer's Euro Finals in Czech Republic at stake for England, Southgate knows the pressure will be higher on his players.
But that’s another part of their development which he hopes can only help stand them in good stead for the future.
"The reason we want them to qualify for a major tournament is for the experience of them playing against the best, under a certain amount of pressure,” explained Southgate.
"There are always two aims in each age group: one is to develop the individual so they can go into the senior team and have the skill set to be successful when they get there, and that process has obviously started with John Stones, Luke Shaw and Raheem Sterling.
"And then there's the collective of the group doing well, which will give them all experience and also develop a winning mentality which we want in all of our age group teams.
"I really like the way we work, we create an elite environment and the other teams who have been here this week, the U20s and U19s, see the way we work and some of our boys got to train with Roy on Tuesday which was a brilliant experience for them.
"So that club environment is what we’re trying to create and that’s starting to look more like we’d like it to look."
England play their first leg at Molineux on Friday evening and tickets for the game cost just £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
Southgate prepares for Croatia