The good news for Bosnia-Herzegovina is that the first battle is won, and after an amendment to the statutes of their football federation's constitution, their Euro 2012 qualifier in Bucharest on Saturday will go ahead as scheduled. The even better news is that they are facing a Romania side at a dismally low ebb; and unless Belarus beat France in Minsk – and they did beat them in Paris last year – an away win would lift Bosnia into second in the group and give them control of the battle for a play-off spot.
Bosnia were suspended from international competition on 1 April and given until 31 May to amend their football federation's constitution. Following the model used by the Bosnian parliament, it featured three presidents, representing the country's three main ethnic groups – Bosniaks (Muslims), Croats and Serbs. That was initially accepted by Fifa and Uefa, on the understanding it was a temporary measure. It was the fact that it was beginning to look permanent that persuaded them to act.
The wrangling and politicking has been intense, with the Serb and Croat members of the federation's executive committee worried that they would lose their voice if the tripartite structure was overturned. A normalisation committee working under Ivica Osim, the hugely respected former Yugoslavia coach, was established and it has done its job, working out a compromise involving a single-member presidency that led to the suspension being overturned on 28 May.
While it is debatable whether Uefa and Fifa should be rejecting an administrative structure deemed good enough for the Bosnian parliament, the decision to suspend Bosnia for two months at a time when there were no international fixtures and their club sides were not involved in continental competition can be seen as a masterstroke – applying pressure in such a way as to make the threat serious while doing no damage.
Osim's committee should also take great credit, their diplomatic success only enhancing the stature of a man who was already one of the most respected figures in Bosnian football. He had a stroke in 2007 and there is a sense about him of frailty and wisdom.
I met him in a Sarajevo cafe a couple of years ago and he spoke movingly then of how he would lie awake at night wondering whether the war might have been averted or at least stalled if his Yugoslavia side had won the World Cup in 1990, while at the same time knowing it was an absurd thought and that football can carry only a certain burden.
At the time, of course, he was seeing how the country came together to support the national team which, under Ciro Blazevic, and with a team featuring the full ethnic mix, got to a play-off for World Cup qualification. There was a fear that after Blazevic's departure – the septuagenarian is now coaching in China – that everything would fall apart, that Bosnia as a competitive football team was a facade kept in place by their coach's intoxicating mix of braggadocio and charisma. Under Safet Susic, who played in Osim's side at the 1990 World Cup, the momentum has been maintained.
He has abandoned the three-at-the-back formation, favoured by Blazevic, instead using a 4-1-3-2 with Elvir Rahimic the anchor in front of the back four, giving the full-backs licence to push forwards. That in turn allows the midfield three to play reasonably narrow, so in the game against Romania in Zenica back in March, Susic was able to include Miralem Pjanic, Zvjezdan Misimovic and Haris Medunjanin. Bosnia fell behind in that game, but the successes of the last three years or so have given them self-belief and patience and, having levelled through Vedad Ibisevic after 63 minutes, they won it with Edin Dzeko's goal seven minutes from time.
Cristian Chivu will not be available for Romania, having retired from international football last month, adding to Razvan Lucescu's problems. He has admitted that if Romania fail to win their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 will be as good as over, and he must know too that he would almost certainly be out of the job.