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Vincenzo Grifo and Freiburg have been one of the biggest surprises of the season so far. - © THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP /AFP via Getty Images
Vincenzo Grifo and Freiburg have been one of the biggest surprises of the season so far. - © THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP /AFP via Getty Images
bundesliga

Freiburg, Union Berlin, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and the Bundesliga's top 5 surprises of 2022/23 so far

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From Union Berlin reaching the league summit to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting's remarkable renaissance at Bayern Munich, the 2022/23 Bundesliga season has already thrown up some eye-catching surprises. bundesliga.com runs through five of our favourites so far...

5) Niclas Füllkrug (Werder Bremen)

The last 12 months have been eventful to say the least for Füllkrug, who started 2022 at a Werder Bremen side sitting just above mid-table in the second division and ended it as Germany's joint top-scorer at the World Cup. He struck 14 times in 16 Bundesliga 2 appearances during the first half of the year, firing Werder into the top tier.

Since then, Füllkrug has continued his hot streak by grabbing 10 goals in 14 Bundesliga games. That earned him a spot in Hansi Flick's World Cup squad and, although the national team didn't make it out of the group stage, Füllkrug left with plenty of credit in the bank after scoring twice and providing an assist in just 66 minutes of football, across three substitute appearances.

Watch: All of Niclas Füllkrug's goals in 2022/23 so far

4) Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Like Füllkrug, Kolo Muani has also had an unforgettable year, culminating in a dream run to the World Cup final. Having lifted the French Cup in May, Kolo Muani has been a revelation after landing in Germany. He's scored five times since joining Eintracht and added nine more assists; a league high before domestic football was put on pause by the World Cup.

Kolo Muani was a late addition to the France squad due to Christopher Nkunku's injury and, despite only making his international debut in September, the 24-year-old scored with his first touch to clinch victory over Morocco in the semi-final. He then won a penalty which Kylian Mbappe converted as France came from 2-0 down to take the final to penalties, where the Eintracht man converted from 12-yards but ultimately saw his side suffer defeat.

Watch: All of Randal Kolo Muani's Bundesliga assists and goals

3) Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich)

Choupo-Moting found himself very much the bit part player in his first two seasons at Bayern Munich, having to play second-fiddle to Robert Lewandowski. But, this term, the Cameroon international has been liberated by the departure of his former teammate in the summer.

He has already struck 11 times in 16 appearances for Bayern in 2022/23, which is more than he managed across his two-year spell at Paris Saint-Germain and equals the best return of his career in 2013/14 when he hit 11 in 34 games for Mainz. A highly-productive year for Choupo-Moting ended with the Bayern No.13 captaining his country in two of their three matches at the World Cup, where he also scored a dramatic equaliser in a pulsating 3-3 draw with Serbia.

Watch: Choupo-Moting's role in Bayern's season so far

2) Union Berlin

Die Eisernen have gone from East German also-rans to fully-fledged Bundesliga leaders in the space of 12 months. It was the culmination of a quite incredible journey for all involved at Union, who built on 2020/21's seventh-place finish by ending 2021/22 in fifth and holding firm on that spot when the Bundesliga halted on Matchday 15 of the 2022/23 campaign due to the World Cup. Their improved league position also upgraded Union's continental participation as they moved from the UEFA Europa Conference League last term to the Europa League this time around.

The year was made extra sweet for Urs Fischer, his team and, even more so, the club's fans, thanks to their on-field dominance over city rivals Hertha. One cup victory and two more in the league means Union hold a three-game perfect record over their neighbours, during which they've scored 10 times.

Watch: Union Berlin riding high

1) Freiburg

Christian Streich's 11th year at the helm has been nothing short of exceptional. Freiburg ended the 2021/22 campaign just three points shy of a top-four spot, ultimately settling on sixth-place - their highest top-flight finish since Streich took them into fifth in 2012/13. They also went all the way to the DFB Cup final for the first time in their history, where they suffered a narrow defeat on penalties to eventual champions RB Leipzig.

Far from being Freiburg's zenith, Streich has pushed his team onto the next level in 2022/23. Four wins and two draws ensured Freiburg topped their Europa League group, while their 30 point haul after the opening 15 rounds of the season left SCF in second at the winter break. As a result, they start the New Year as the closest challengers to leaders Bayern.