The 1-1 draw with Chile in Moscow left Australia third in Group B and on their way home.
But it was the Socceroos who looked like the fourth ranked nation in the world and not the vaunted South American champions as Cahill and company produced arguably their best performance yet during Postecoglou’s reign, and one which if replicated against Japan and Thailand in the coming months will see them returning to Russia for next year’s World Cup.
Purring with pride, the 37 year old, who put in a stirring 59 minute shift as one of six changes from the 1-1 draw with Cameroon, declared: “We had to press them and get in their faces … they are a team we are looking to emulate.
“They are one of the hardest working teams in the world and it was great to have the chance to play against the best and go level pegging with them.
“My job is to lead, and once I do that the boys follow,” added Cahill, who worked himself to a standstill in an attacking midfield role at Spartak Stadium.
“When you get in players faces, it doesn’t matter who they are they are under pressure.
“We caused them real problems and they had to resort to lumping the ball long.”
Cahill saw a team display which oozed maturity and menace as a marker for the qualifiers to come.
“We are trying to change the way the game is played in Australia and I know people will be proud.
“They were the most difficult opponent we’ve faced and will probably go on to win the tournament.
“They are the hardest working team I’ve ever seen … we’ll learn a lot from the game.”
While his team allowed themselves a few moments of satisfaction, despite bowing out, coach Postecoglou was a picture of discontent afterwards as he lamented what might have been.
And Cahill could understand his downcast demeanour, explaining: “I am proud of the boss. That’s the standards he is setting and we are so close to doing something special.
“The boss won’t waver and nor we will. We didn’t step backwards. There were a lot of changes … people will look at the side and think ’what’s going on?’
“But I said before the tournament these players (Jackson Irvine, Ryan McGowan, James Troisi) would get their chance.”
With an excellent Robbie Kruse, Trent Sainsbury and substitute Jamie Maclaren all having chances to win the game, Cahill conceded it was an opportunity lost with Australia needing to win by two clerar goals to reach the last four.
“If we’d taken those chances it could have 4-2, 3-1 or 3-3,” he added.
“We’ll keep playing the same way … we’ll keep playing out from the back even if people call us crazy.”