The extra-time goal by Spain's Andres Iniesta was enough to give Vicente del Bosque's side their first FIFA World Cup title in their first final. But it was heartbreak for Van Bronckhorst's Netherlands who also lost at the final stage in both the 1974 and 1978.
The 35-year-old earned his 106th cap on Sunday at the same stadium he won his second cap and the former Arsenal and Barcelona star will now study for his coaching badge before becoming assistant coach to the Dutch Under-21 side.
"We were so close to being world champions, but it didn't work out that way. It is very disappointing," said Van Bronckhorst. "I am very proud of the team and everything we have achieved. We came far, we gave everything today."
Having netted arguably the goal of the tournament in the 3-2 semi-final win over Uruguay, Van Bronckhorst had a quiet final as he conceded a second-half yellow card. His tackle on Iniesta in the game's 98th-minute kept his side in the final, before the Spaniard broke Oranje hearts.
It brings down the curtain on Van Bronckhurst's 14-year career with the Netherlands. He won only his second cap for his country at Soccer City against South Africa in August 1996, back when the Johannesburg ground was known as the FNB Stadium, and became the Dutch captain in 2008 after coach Bert van Marwijk took charge.
Starting out at Feyenoord, he has had a glittering career at club level, winning titles with Glasgow Rangers, Arsenal and Barcelona, but he has never tasted trophy success in the orange shirt.