International sport is played out as much on the field as between the ears. Beyond a particular level, just in terms of skill sets and abilities, the top teams and the top individual players don't suffer in comparison. It is in how they handle pressure, or more significantly, whether they allow themselves to be too affected by pressure, that determines which side of the result fence they find themselves in.
The higher the stakes are, the greater are the chances that every effort will be made to wrest an advantage over the opponent, however minuscule it might appear. Mind games are an integral part of sport at the top level; some indulge in it deliberately, others realise over a period of time how, without even trying, they have some kind of a hold over their rivals.
One of the more intimidating sights in sport is that of the New Zealand rugby team going through its pre-match routine. With the opposition 15 looking on wide-eyed, bemused and slightly unsettled, the All Blacks perform the 'haka', an energetic Maori war dance full of power and aggression that sends out a clear message to the opposition. Over time, teams might have gotten used to this unusual method, but there is no disputing the fact that every time the 'haka' is brought out, there is a certain chill that goes down the opposition spin.