No heroes for Netherlands in second shoot-out of their tournament
Louis van Gaal left to rue not being able to use keeper Tim Krul, who thwarted Costa Rica
Traditional Dutch frailty in penalty shoot-outs again proved the Netherlands' Achilles heel when they lost 4-2 on spot-kicks to Argentina after a goalless World Cup semi-final.
Coach Louis van Gaal was forced to use defender Ron Vlaar - who missed - as his first penalty taker and he was also left to rue being unable to send on his expert spot-kick saver Tim Krul for the shoot-out.
"I thought Vlaar was the best player on the field and I thought he had a great deal of confidence," Van Gaal said. "[But] when push comes to shove it is not easy to score a penalty kick. Everybody knows that."
The task of taking the first kick was given, in the quarter-final win over Costa Rica, to striker Robin van Persie, who was substituted in extra time against Argentina.
Arjen Robben and Dirk Kuyt scored their penalties, but midfielder Wesley Sneijder also missed, while Argentina converted four out of four to reach Sunday's final against Germany.
The Dutch have now lost two out of three penalty shoot-outs at World Cups, and three out of four in European Championships.
"When you take one you have to score and that didn't happen, so it wasn't good enough," Vlaar said.
"I would never walk away from my responsibility. It's tough, but that's what sport is about. It really hurts, a dream which gets put out."
Van Gaal also rued the fact he could not use substitute Krul as he did so successfully against Costa Rica.
First-choice Jasper Cillessen had failed to stop any of the 13 penalties he has faced in his professional career and that number increased to 17 on Wednesday.
Krul made two fine saves in the shoot-out against Costa Rica, but Van Gaal had used all three substitutions against Argentina so Cillessen had to stay on.
"If I had had the opportunity to substitute Jasper I would have done that, but I had already used three substitutes, so I couldn't do that," the Dutch coach said.
"I thought it was necessary to get Van Persie out because he was on his last legs," he added. "My feeling was that [Klaas-Jan] Huntelaar [Van Persie's replacement] would make the goal."
Argentina keeper Sergio Romero emerged as his team's hero by saving two of the four Dutch spot-kicks - and he is a player Van Gaal knows well.
"Of course, I taught Romero how to stop penalties so that hurts," he said, in jest. Van Gaal took Romero to AZ Alkmaar in 2007 when he was coach there.