SAO PAULO (AP) ― Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie came up empty again.
The Netherlands forwards, and the rest of the team, essentially ran out of steam Wednesday in the World Cup semifinals, losing to Argentina in a penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw.
How different to a month ago and the start of the tournament, when the teammates scored two goals each and the Dutch soared to a glorious 5-1 win over defending champion Spain.
It was all downhill from there for the three-time World Cup runners-up.
The Dutch never again reached the heights of that win over the world champions in Salvador, trailing Australia at one point, and then needing a last-gasp comeback against Mexico and their own shootout win over underdog Costa Rica to make the last four.
On Wednesday in a grinding battle against Argentina in Sao Paulo, the Dutch were on their last legs.
Their fate appeared to be especially tied to the two front men, who both failed to score in open play in the knockout stages. And on Wednesday, the Argentine defense kept them covered yet again.
The Netherlands’ World Cup hopes faded through the last three games and finally ended with a 4-2 shootout loss to the Argentines at Itaquerao Stadium.
“You can’t blame anybody, also not the boys who missed penalties,” said Robben, who did score in the shootout.