Nov. 30, 2022

Canadian men make soccer history at 2022 World Cup

Former Dino weighs in on historic World Cup appearance by national men’s soccer team
Dominick Zator
Dominick Zator, BComm'17, played five seasons with the Dinos. UCalgary Dinos files

The Canadian men’s soccer team may not be moving on from the group stage of the World Cup but they’ve already achieved history and have set themselves up for even greater success when Canada co-hosts the 2026 World Cup with the United States and Mexico.

“Canada turned some heads at this tournament showing we are able to play and compete at the world stage,” says Dominick Zator, 28, a former defender with the Dinos who was called up to the national team in 2019.

Against Belgium, they held the second-ranked team in the world to one goal and took more shots on net than they managed during three games at their only other World Cup appearance, in 1986.

Against Croatia, star forward Alphonso Davies scored the Canadian men’s first-ever World Cup goal.

And they still have the chance to achieve another first on Thursday against Morocco — a win.

“The game against Morocco might not mean anything to progress in the tournament but it means everything for Canada to continue the progress as a program to compete at the world stage,” says Zator, who graduated from the Haskayne School of Business with a Bachelor of Commerce and Accounting in 2017.

“Canada won’t just be throwing in the towel because we are out, we will do our best to get a result at this tournament. Even a point shows the capabilities Canada has and it gives the nation the motivation we need leading into the World Cup we host in four years' time.”

Canadian men’s soccer team during a pre-game warmup at 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Canadian men’s soccer team during a pre-game warmup at 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Canada Soccer, via Facebook

Zator was named to the men’s squad by Canada Soccer for a match against the United States in the 2019-20 CONCACAF Nations League, one of the stepping stones for Canada to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

While he didn’t play in the game, he did get first-hand experience with current coach John Herdman and players including Davies and forward Jonathan David, along with defender Sam Adekugbe who he played with at youth levels for several years while growing up in Calgary.

“To see a guy like Sam, who I was close with, make it to the highest stage of football, it’s amazing to see. I’m so happy for him,” says Zator. “It was an honour to be called up and to be able to train with world-class players.”

Zator played five seasons with the Dinos from 2012 to 2016. In 55 Canada West contests, he collected five goals and 13 assists. He was named a conference first team all-star in his senior year.

After the Dinos, he played a season with the Vancouver Whitecaps and had just finished a season with the Calgary Cavalry FC, including an appearance in the in the Canadian Premier League final, when he was called up.

Zator played two seasons with the Cavalry and was signed with York United the past two seasons. He is currently looking for a new contract.

He still has hopes of being called up to the national program again and says the program has built a lot of momentum with their World Cup performance despite the losses. It’s something to build on going into the 2026 World Cup where Canada will gain automatic entry as a co-host.

“Hosting a World Cup is a massive honour. Plus guaranteeing yourself a spot in the tournament gives the national program a huge boost for playing games against top countries again on our home soil,” says Zator.

“This World Cup is very important for the program to learn what it will take to perform and advance. We got to play against a team like Croatia who showcased why they made it to the World Cup finals four years ago. Only good things have come from this tournament for the national program. I am really looking forward to how they perform against Morocco in our last game and what the next four years have in store for Canada and what new stars will arise for Canada.”

Come watch the game Dec. 1

The campus community is invited to come together to watch Canada’s final game at the 2022 World Cup against Morocco in Hunter Student Commons. The game starts at 8 a.m. on Thursday and will be streamed on a large screen set up on the main floor. Following the game, a bake sale and hot chocolate bar for the United Way will be set up at 10 a.m.