Although an international friendly, Colombia remained in World Cup-qualifying mode Wednesday night.
Jackson Martinez led a scoring blitz that propelled Colombia to a 4-1 win over Guatemala before a crowd of about 10,000 at Sun Life Stadium.
Martinez scored twice in a 10-minute span midway through the first half as Colombia convincingly shut down an upset bid from Guatemala, eliminated from international tournaments through 2014.
The dominant victory reinforces Colombia, currently third in the South American zone, for its next round of World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia on March 22.
Colombia displayed its dominance despite the absence of star striker Radamel Falcao. The forward from Atletico Madrid of the Spanish League, who is third on the scoring table behind Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, dressed but didn’t play.
Martinez gave Colombia a 1-0 lead with his goal in the 23rd minute. Juan Cuadrado dribbled inside the large area and blasted a shot from the right wing. Guatemela goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez deflected Cuadrado’s attempt but failed to clear the shot, and an open Martinez pounced on the loose ball near the left post, tapping in a shot from 5 yards.
Guatemala nearly tied it four minutes later when Colombia goalkeeper David Osbina made a diving deflection off Jose Contreras’ 10-yard shot.
Martinez struck again with his second goal in the 33rd minute for a 2-0 Colombia lead.
Martinez received Macnelly Torres’ free kick, fought off a group of defenders and converted on a shot from 12 yards.
Colombia continued to attack in the closing minutes of the first half. Cuadrado, who repeatedly found openings deep in the right wing area, was denied Colombia’s third goal of the half when his shot in the 37th minute bounced off the right post.
Jerez denied another Colombia first-half goal when he deflected Pablo Armero’s shot just outside the 6-yard box in the 43rd minute.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman substituted freely to start the second half, including Martinez’s removal. The additions failed to slow down ball movement and scoring threats.
Abel Aguilar increased Colombia’s lead to 3-0 with his goal in the 56th minute. Armero sent a short pass to Aguilar near the half circle, where he blasted a shot that landed inside the left post.
About the only suspense left after Aguilar’s goal was whether Falcao would enter the game. The predominant Colombia crowd’s repeatedly screamed Falcao’s name, but Pekerman didn’t comply with the fans’ wishes.
Guatemala avoided the shutout on Contreras’ successful penalty kick in the 72d minute.
Luis Muriel scored Colombia’s fourth goal in the 81st minute, when he headed in Carlos Bacca’s cross past Jerez’s outstretched hands.
Before Martinez broke through with his first goal, Colombia controlled the ball from the opening minutes but couldn’t connect on the crucial pass for the goal-scoring opportunity.
In the 14th minute, Cuadrado had the team’s first shot on goal, when he maneuvered past Guatemala defenders and blasted a shot from the right wing inside the large area. Jerez deflected Cuadrado’s attempt.