Canada is in the World Cup for the first time since 1986. But in Toronto many diaspora communities are unsure who to cheer for

As Team Canada gears up to play in its first World Cup match since 1986, some fans here in Toronto admit to finding themselves with some divided loyalties.

During Wednesday afternoon’s match again Canada, Belgians Matthias Dedobbeleer, Aurian Delacroix, and Quentin Vondel said they’ll be mostly cheering for their home country but will also be rooting for Canada.

“We all hope Canada makes it far and if they’re playing we’ll support them too,” said Vondel, adding he’s confident Belgium has a good chance of winning Group F.

“We should be able to beat Canada and Morocco. The jury’s still out on Croatia.”

The three friends, who all live in Toronto and are permanent residents, will be taking Wednesday afternoon off to join fellow Belgian soccer fans at Duke of York pub on Prince Arthur Avenue. The game gets underway at 2 p.m.

Delacroix, whose eight-month old daughter Alba is a Canadian citizen, said he’s been impatiently waiting for the World Cup since the last EUFA European Championship when Belgium made it to the quarter finals and lost to Italy.

“Our team is still really good so we have a good chance,” he said.

“We’re really a small country so that’s why it’s so exciting for us to be such a contender in the World Cup.”

Dedobbeleer, who organized Wednesday watching party, agreed.

“It’s our last chance to win because we have a golden generation. All of our players are over 30 years old,” he said.

Belgium, which is currently ranked second in men’s soccer, remains the only national team in the world to top the FIFA ranking without having won a World Cup or a continental trophy.

Delacroix said in the end rooting for two teams, gives them all “more chances of being happy.”

custom Moroccan-Canadian soccer t-shirts

Die-hard Maroccan soccer fan Fawzi Metoulilli, who has called Canada home for 22 years and is a Canadian citizen, couldn’t resist taking in some of the World Cup action in person.

Matoulilli, who departed for Qatar on Tuesday, has tickets to watch the Morocco vs. Belgium match on Nov. 27 and the Morocco vs. Canada game on Dec. 1.

“I’ve been a big soccer fan since I was a kid. In Morocco, we grew up with soccer. It was part of our life,” shared Metoulilli, who has played on a number of soccer teams over the years.

“Belgium and Croatia will be some tough competition so I hope Morocco puts its best foot forward.”

During the soccer matches, Metoulilli will be donning a custom made t-shirt that reflects his support for both Canada and Morocco.

“I just hope one of the teams goes to the second round. … If one of the two wins that’s good,” he said, admitting he might be cheering a little bit louder for Morocco.

“When it comes to soccer, you could say I’m half, half. … I’ll have the two flags with me. Canada and Morocco are both my countries.”

Metoulilli, who said his homeland still holds a special place in his heart, said he’s excited to see what the World Cup will be like for the first time in an Arabic nation. He said he’s also looking forward to reuniting with some good friends from back home there.

“It’s a big experience for me. It’s once in my life,” said Matoulilli, a downtown Toronto resident.

He said he’s also looking forward the 2026 tourney in North America and would definitely purchase tickets to see some games, especially if Canada happens to take on Morocco again.

Currently, Morocco is ranked 22nd. The squad’s best showing was in 1986 when it made the round of 16.

Croatian-Canadian Soccer fan Tony Sokic

The Croatian national football team is also a strong World Cup contender. Ranked 12th by FIFA, Croatia made it to the playoffs at the 2021 EUFA European Championship. The country’s best result so far in the World Cup is when they lost to France in the 2018 final.

The team is set to take on Morocco on Wednesday at 5 a.m. They play against Canada on Sunday at 11 a.m. The Croatia vs. Belgium match is set for Dec. 1 at 10 a.m.

Like many, soccer lovers Tony Sokic will be up bright and early Wednesday morning to watch Croatia play against Morocco.

Sokic, who started playing soccer when he was five years old and was a member of the Hamilton Croatia Football Club among other things, said he’ll also be tuning in to all of Canada’s matches.

“It’s a real head to heart thing,” he shared when asked about who he’ll be rooting for in Group F.

“I think it’s very exciting to watch Canada as an underdog come into (the tournament). … It’s going to be lots of fun to watch.”

The Etobicoke resident, who diligently watched all of Canada’s qualifying matches, said he expects Croatia and Belgium will move on to the next round, but he isn’t counting Canada out.

“Saudi Arabia just beat Argentina so anything is possible. I don’t want to underestimate them,” he told CP24.com.

“The best–case scenario for me would be that both Canada and Croatia qualify for the next round.”

Sokic, who said he’s equally excited to welcome the World Cup to North America in 2026, spoke about the special affinity he has for the Canadian squad, which he called a team with a “lot of heart.”

He said that fondness stems from the many opportunities this country has afforded him and his family. Sokic was born in Germany in 1965 and came to Canada in 1967. He and his parents became Canadian citizens in 1972.

“Canada is the best place in the world to be,” he said.

“I will be cheering for both sides!”

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