Soccer can be annoying, especially to those who watch only the big tournaments. There are too many fouls, baffling referee errors and players without a scratch on them rolling in the grass as if in unbearable pain — and too few goals. But the 2018 World Cup has been surprisingly different (with a few exceptions). The improvement probably comes down to a single rule change: Referees now have access to video replays. A little more than a week into the month-long competition, it’s too early to know for sure how much the technology called Video-Assisted Referees will change the game. But there are signs it’s making it better. So far, there have been fewer serious fouls than usual and no referee errors that affected match outcomes. In addition, compared with previous World Cups, the players appear to be more singularly focused on scoring or preventing goals, and less on hurting and intimidating opponents or trying to trick referees into favorable decisions.

Replays have been used t...

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