Steven Gerrard has urged his England team-mates to remember their previous disappointments at the quarter-final stage of major tournaments and challenged them to take their game to a higher level against Italy with a Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany at stake.

Gerrard, a member of the England side who were eliminated at this stage of Euro 2004 and the World Cup in 2006, believes Roy Hodgson's team will have to improve on their performances in the group stage to book a place in the last four.

"We've shown how together we are, how prepared we are to fight for each other and, at the right times, we've provided the bit of class or skill that you need to come through on top of the group," he said. "So far, so good, but we also need to realise that the level of teams goes up a notch now, and that tells us we need to raise our own game. We need to perform better than we have done in the group so far."

The alternative is that England run the risk of another last-eight exit but Gerrard followed Hodgson in saying that they should consider they had at least a 50-50 chance of getting past Cesare Prandelli's side.

"This is a fantastic moment for this group of players. Since I made my England debut I've dreamed of doing well in these major tournaments. Ever since I've been a young boy, I've dreamed about it. Once you get to this stage of a competition and you can see what's in sight, you start to dream again.

"Up to now that hasn't happened but there's another chance to do it here and, because of the hurt and pain I've been through before, I'm hoping it will be different this time. I'm going to give it everything I have to try to make it different this time. To lose in a quarter-final, it hurts so much."

England's captain was noticeably confident as he accompanied his manager into a press conference at Kiev's Olympic Stadium. "In previous tournaments the level of performance has been under what we're capable of," Gerrard continued. "This time we've got stronger as the tournament has gone on. So I think there has to be high confidence levels. The level of performance of the team so far gives me the confidence and the belief.

"The players are all aware of how big the game is, the atmosphere is superb and now it's important the players seize this opportunity because these moments don't come around very often. It's important we leave everything out there and we show to our critics and doubters that we are capable of performing at this level."

Hodgson is expected to field an unchanged lineup on Sunday while Prandelli has broken with his usual policy and will not tell his Italy players the team until an hour before kick-off.

Mario Balotelli is expected to be recalled after responding to being left out against the Republic of Ireland by scoring as a substitute, and the Manchester City striker has insisted he can deliver a grown-up performance.

"Someone called me Peter Pan," he said. "I think I'm a man. I'm more of a man than Peter Pan. I don't think Mario needs to demonstrate anything to anyone, Italian or English. It was an important goal for me against Ireland because I hadn't scored in the first two games. You [the Italian media] said I had a mental block but I didn't. I was very emotional in the first two games, it was my first Euros and it is normal to have a reaction."

By that, Balotelli was referring to the moments after his goal when his team-mate, Leonardo Bonucci, felt it necessary to clamp a hand over his mouth to stop him shouting.

"I wanted to score a goal so I was worked up but not angry," Balotelli said. "There were no problems with the squad on or off the pitch. This is different to what was said: that I've got an attitude problem."

He added: "I hope it's going to be a good match. It will be fun to play against my [City] team-mates. They know me and I know them. I just hope I win and they lose. I want to win this game with all my heart and soul."

Balotelli was asked about James Milner's observation that he has two sides, one that can score spectacular goals and win matches and one that does not train well when it is cold and has a questionable attitude. "He's lucky," the striker said. "He knows two Balotellis."