It was a cruel night for the Aston Villa man as he was man of the match in open play but his saved penalty set the shootout's tone, while the striker went out with a whimperArgentina who will face Germany in the World Cup final on Sunday.
The back lines were on top as the Albiceleste played out a 0-0 stalemate with Netherlands, meaning that there were some good performances for several Premier League-based defenders, but it was not so good for Robin van Persie.
So as Alejandro Sabella's men set up a potentially glorious evening in Brazil on Sunday, Goal examines how all the representatives of England's top flight performed on World Cup day 24...
|PABLO ZABALETA & MARTIN DEMICHELIS
The two Manchester City men, between them, largely kept Arjen Robben quiet whenever the Dutch dangerman was down their side.
Zabaleta put in a great tackle on Robben after just five minutes and another on Wesley Sneijder with 20 minutes to go, also surviving an NFL-style collision with Dirk Kuyt to put in an impressive 120 minutes.
It was not all easy going, though, and particularly for Demichelis, who was caught out by Robben a few times. Just after half-time, the City centre-back dragged his man down on the edge of the box and, in injury time of normal time, the winger almost scored a dramatic winner after driving into the box, only for the excellent Javier Mascherano to intervene.
Then, six minutes into extra time, Demichelis was rinsed by Robben, who put the ball through his legs before skipping around Zabaleta but was snuffed out again by Mascherano.
Zabaleta might have been caught out on another night by a more attack-minded team; he let Robin van Persie in behind him just into injury time but the Dutchman was too conservative and played the ball back into midfield.
Those may sound like several instances of poor defending but, on the whole, it was a night on which the two defences came out on top, and Zabaleta and Demichelis provided a fundamental part of what Argentina did, particularly in snuffing out Louis van Gaal's main creative talents.
|ROBIN VAN PERSIE
It was another sub-standard performance from the Manchester United man, who started the tournament with a bang but has struggled ever since the win against Australia.
Such was the good work by Argentina's defence, his best work was done in his own area, heading away a couple of dangerous free kicks and corners.
He did not register a shot, let alone one on target, and was withdrawn shortly into extra time. For all the good that Van Persie did, Louis van Gaal might as well have brought on Tim Krul to play up front for the last 15 minutes of the match before going in goal for the shootout.
The Aston Villa man was a rock at the heart of the Dutch defence but, cruelly for him, missed the first penalty of the night and ultimately it cost his side a place in the final.
Before that, though, it was an excellent performance from the 29-year-old. He actually started a little shakily, being caught out on the left, alongside Bruno Martins Indi, before running back to trip up the lively Enzo Perez on the edge of the box. He then kicked Ezequiel Garay in the face from a corner, with the added effect or forcing the Argentine's header over the bar.
From then on, though, Vlaar looked more assured, shutting out Gonzalo Higuain in the box before the break and then denying Lionel Messi with two vital interventions early in the second half. The Barcelona star almost certainly would have scored had the defender not stretched out a leg on the edge of the box.
It was not just his tackling which was impressive, though; he made a number of fine interceptions to stamp out dangerous attacks, including from Mascherano in the 88th minute. He also used the ball well, playing one or two smart balls into Sneijder and Robben, despite the Dutch's reluctance to get the ball forward in general.
Of course, Vlaar's penalty will be remembered but this performance will come as a reminder to Villa to get the centre-back's contract renewed before it runs out next summer. It will not be easy, though, with a number of clubs sure to have been alerted by a very assured display.