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Arconada was seriously injured in 1985-86's league opener, which caused him to miss the remainder of the campaign and the 1986 FIFA World Cup. He still returned strong for three more seasons, helping Real Sociedad to two consecutive Copa del Rey finals before retiring at 35, with a total of 414 appearances (551 overall); after that, he remained apart from the football world.
On 27 March 1977, Arconada played his first game for Spain, a 1-1 friendly with Hungary in Alicante, replacing Real Madrid's Miguel Ángel for the second half. Having captained the nation on many occasions, he represented it at the 1978 and 1982FIFA World Cups as well as at UEFA Euro 1980 and 1984. In the latter competition, his blunder resulted in the opening goal for hosts France in a 0-2 final defeat: he appeared to have smothered a free-kick from Michel Platini under his chest in a diving save, but he fumbled the ball, which slid off under his body and rolled slowly into the net; despite his reputation as a world-class goalkeeper, several years later he was still widely remembered for the error, known as "Arconada's goal" in Spain.
Arconada was known for his leadership, bravery and consistency, and was regarded as one of the best Spanish goalkeepers of all time. His athleticism, speed, shot-stopping ability, reflexes, footwork and acrobatic style served as an inspiration to Iker Casillas. In 2017, former goalkeeper Manuel Almunia also praised Arconada for his ability to produce saves with his feet.
Arconada's younger brother, Gonzalo, never played professional football, but had an extensive coaching career, mainly in the third division. For a few months in early 2006, he coached Real Sociedad's first team.