Cahill's career crossroads
Three years ago, they walked into the post-match media conference at the Fritz Walter Stadion with the warmth and familiarity of a father and son. So to see Guus Hiddink and Tim Cahill as opponents in the FA Cup final was one of those curious quirks of footballing fate.
In June 2006, Hiddink was Australia coach and Cahill was man of the match as the Socceroos opened their 2006 World Cup campaign with an unlikely triumph against Asian champions Japan in Kaiserslautern. Cahill's 84th and 89th minute goals as a substitute helped turn what seemed destined to be a frustrating 1-0 defeat into a stunning 3-1 victory (John Aloisi scored the third goal), further propagating the legend of super-manager Hiddink.
In front of the world's media, Cahill began by expressing his love and thanks to his family. He was referring to his blood relatives but he could easily have also meant the 'family' of Team Australia with a spirit and trust that had been expertly nurtured by father figure Hiddink at their World Cup base in the cosy village of Oehringen.
In his Wembley appearance against Chelsea, Everton's Cahill became only the second Australian (Liverpool's Craig Johnston was the other in the 1980s) to appear in two FA Cup finals.
It wasn't a vintage Cahill performance - in the first half he played deeper than usual - but did have a touch in the passing movement that led to Louis Saha's record fast (26 seconds) opening goal. He was more prominent after the break, despite injuring his hip on the hour after blocking a clearance from Chelsea defender Alex: tussling with Michael Essien, making trademark runs into the box and firing off long-range shots.
In the five years since his previous FA Cup final appearance - in another losing cause for underdogs Millwall against Manchester United in Cardiff - Cahill has won Oceania Player of the Year, been nominated for Europe's Ballon D'Or and gone from a one-cap Socceroo to Australia's number-one player.
More than any other man wearing the national shirt, Cahill is without rival when it comes to being the inspiration and role model for youngsters across the country. And that goes beyond the Socceroo number four being a face on the box of popular Aussie breakfast cereal, Weet-Bix.
Harry Kewell has lost a yard of pace and moved to Turkey. Mark Viduka's ageing body surely means that his playing days are coming to a close. Celtic marksman Scott McDonald still hasn't scored for his country. Lucas Neill is the national captain, but as a central defender, he's hardly an 'excitement machine'.
Cahill grabbed Australia's first ever World Cup goals and also their first in the Asian Cup in 2007 when his stoppage time equaliser saved Australia's blushes against lowly Oman in Bangkok. He's also scored at crucial times during the South Africa 2010 campaign, with Pim Verbeek taking over from Hiddink as the Socceroos' Dutch doyen and guiding the Aussies to within a heartbeat of qualification.
Further endearing himself to the Australian public has been his genuine interest in youth football - he supports a junior academy in Wollongong, south of Sydney - and his reported link as a backer for a future A-League franchise.
So, as we look back on the progress that Cahill has made for club and country since his last FA Cup appearance in 2004, where might the next five years lead him?
Turning 30 in December, it seems a stretch that he'll be part of a third World Cup campaign for 2014 (when he'll be 34) but given the worrying lack of emerging Australian talent coming through, it can't be out of the question.
Cahill has been described as the best player in the Premier League, outside of the top four. He's pledged his long-term future to Everton, but one wonders how his career might advance if he could regularly play alongside fellow superstars in the Champions League with a bigger team.
As is in his nature, Cahill is fiercely loyal to Everton manager David Moyes, who gave him his big break in the Premier League by signing him in 2004 from then-Championship side, Millwall. But could 'blind loyalty' stop Tiny Tim from taking the next step in his development?
Interestingly, Cahill draws comparisons between Scotsman Moyes and Hiddink.
"Guus is very honest, very blunt but also a very nice guy.. he's a bit like David Moyes really," he said in the lead-up to the FA Cup final.
Battered and bruised, Cahill was a deeply disappointed figure as Hiddink celebrated his Chelsea farewell with a Wembley winner's medal. Before the ceremony, the ex-PSV boss walked over to console his former midfielder who had cooled off by tying his blue Everton shirt over his head, revealing his toned and tattooed body.
"I have a special relationship with Tim Cahill," Hiddink said. "When I first started with the Australians and they didn't have the confidence to qualify for the World Cup in Germany, he was one of the key players. You could use him everywhere, anywhere and he knew - and knows - to deliver."
Major silverware is the one glaring hole on Cahill's otherwise stellar footballing C.V. Let's hope he doesn't have to wait another five years for the chance to change that.
• Australian-born Jason Dasey (www.jasondasey.com) is an international broadcaster and corporate host. He covered the 2006 World Cup and 2007 Asian Cup for ESPN.