FIFA president Sepp Blatter had said the decision to impose an altitude cap was based partly on medical concerns. ((Eddy Risch/Associated Press))

FIFA revised its ban on matches at high altitude Wednesday, easing the restrictions to only apply to World Cup qualifiers above 3,000 metres.

The change, brought on by protests from South American countries, means international matches can still be played in the capitals of Colombia and Ecuador, but rules out Bolivia's capital, La Paz.

The announcement by FIFA president Sepp Blatter came after the world soccer body's executive committee met to hear a complaint from the South American federation, which represents countries angered by not being able to host important games in certain stadiums.

FIFA's initial ban, which was passed last month, prohibited international tournaments and World Cup qualifying matches in stadiums above 2,500 metres. The organization said the high altitude caused medical concerns for players and an unfair home advantage for highland teams.

But that caused widespread protests as it eliminated matches in Bogota, Colombia,2,650metres above sea level, and Quito, Ecuador, 2,800metres above sea level, along with the stadiums of leading teams in Peru, Chile and Mexico.

The new ban only applies to World Cup qualifying matches, Blatter said. La Paz, which sits3,600metres above sea level, and stadiums in Cuzco, Peru, will still be unable to host qualifying matches.

With Bolivian President Evo Morales leading the campaign, CONMEBOL voted unanimously two weeks ago to press FIFA to overturn the ban.

FIFA heard arguments Wednesday from the executive committee's three South American members: CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, FIFA vice-president Julio Grondona of Argentina and Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil.

Andean countries had worried that their case was to be argued by lowland countries accused by some of being behind the ban in the first place. In the past, Argentina and Brazil have complained about the disadvantages of having to play at altitude.

Brazil's past complaints have included not being able to get players released from European clubs early enough to prepare for high altitudes.

Ecuador Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa, who met with Blatter on Tuesday, had argued for the ban to be rescinded.

"We believe because of the scientific and medical studies, that altitude is not a problem," Espinosa told the Associated Press. "You need some previous adaptation, but what we have seen is that it is more dangerous to play in the heat and the humidity than to play in the altitude."

CONMEBOL also wants FIFA to study other factors that could cause medical problems at games, including "heat, cold and snow." Andean officials say matches played in extreme heat— like some in Brazil— could also be medically dangerous to players, but complain that FIFA has not sought to ban those games.

Blatter said a meeting has been arranged in October to discuss various problems, including altitude and extreme temperatures,affecting the health of players.